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November 14, 2003

Worth More than Sparrows

"Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Luke 12:7

God is watching us. He knows everything there is to be known. When something goes awry, and a father has a heart attack - then surgery, God knows. When a mother is killed tragically when her fifteen year old son who is learning to drive is at the wheel of the car, God knows. We are worth more than many sparrows!

How can we see nature in all its splendor? How can we marvel at the birds and see how God cares for them? And feel that He has forgotten us?

Lord, forgive my indignation. You are here every moment, and You know every thought, every fear, every worry... Help me to trust You. Give me great faith to see the work of Your hand in the smallest of things.

I am worth more than sparrows. His eye is on the sparrow; I know He watches me!

November 16, 2003

Is it enough?

"But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." Luke 14:13-14

This morning I met a man. His story may have been true. He carried a police report as proof that he had been in an accident. Now, he was forced to beg for bus money so he and his wife could make the three-hour trip home. The social worker in me immediately bubbled out, and I recommended he try to locate the local Traveler's Aid Society. But still, I gave him a ten dollar bill and told him I expected him to use it for its intended purpose. He thanked me and asked God's blessing over me. Then he did something that in hindsight makes me feel like I didn't do enough.

He asked my name.

Why didn't I ask him the same when he first approached me? Why didn't I stop on the spot and pray with him that the Lord would provide the rest of what he needed? Oh, I don't think I've stopped praying for him since we parted. But why couldn't I boldly share the love of Christ with my heart rather than my wallet? Was I paying him to simply go away? Or was I truly seeking to serve him as Jesus would?

Lord, You challenge us to serve those who cannot serve us in return - to give to those who could never pay us back. But is that enough? If I haven't shared the Truth, have I done any good?

Father, place Your hand on this nameless stranger and his wife. Send someone along who is more generous than I. Help them to know You because someone was bold enough to proclaim You. Forgive my insecurity. Make me a generous servant who is unafraid to give what really matters.

April 2, 2004

The Sadness of Joy

So all the work on the tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting, was completed. The Israelites did everything just as the Lord commanded Moses. Exodus 39:32

The tabernacle was complete! Moses inspected every article to ensure it fit God's design. The craftsmen were blessed for all their effort. What an accomplishment!

I wonder, though... What did Bezalel and Oholiab do when it was finished? Could they simply go back to life as normal, building fine furnishings or creating beautiful tapestries? I wonder how depressed they got when reality hit: it was over.

Lord, it seems most of my life has been going from one project to another. I know the grief that oftentimes comes with success. How odd that sadness can so quickly follow joy. Life is an interesting mixture of emotion.

Which reminds me...

I got a call from a friend last night. She called be about something that makes me both happy and sad. My friend works with a woman whose daughter is getting married this Sunday. Although it is the last minute, the music isn't working out. She asked if I could help.

You see, the bride's sister was to be her only attendant. A few weeks ago, this beautiful, Spirit-filled young lady who recently returned from mission work in Africa was tragically killed by the reckless act of a drunk driver. All the wedding plans took a different turn. Things that would normally bring joy are now too painful to bear.

Father, help this young bride and her family - help everyone who grieves the loss of her sister. Help them to find joy in the pain. Help me to be the hands of Christ reaching into the pit to shine a little light in the darkness.

Forgive my own ambivalence. You have given me so much. Thank You, Lord, for Your undeserved blessing.

April 13, 2004

It Must Not Go Out

The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out. Leviticus 6:13

When everyone in the camp slept, the priests were keeping vigil. The lamps in the Tent of Meeting were to burn all night. The fire on the altar could not go out. The work of the priests was never done.

I wonder what it was like to be the one keeping watch over the altar? To be in a holy place, called to holy work, while the world slept around you? Did the Spirit meet you there? Did you sense the importance of their work? Did you pray throughout the night?

What was it like?

Lord, like the priests in the middle of the night, You seem to have called me tonight. What is it that I am to keep burning? Fill me with Your presence so I might know. Take care of my family. Restore the health of my household for we have all been under the weather. Bring us back to You. Keep the fire of Your Spirit burning continuously; do not let it go out.

April 26, 2004

The Rightful Owner

"This is so the Israelites will bring to the Lord the sacrifices they are now making in the open fields. They must bring them to the priest, that is, to the Lord, at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and sacrifice them as fellowship offerings." Leviticus 17:5

God established a lasting ordinance. All sacrifices were to be made at the Tent of Meeting. God was the rightful owner of the sacrifices, and He wanted them to be presented to Himself - not given away to any other god.

Lord, You are the rightful owner of my heart, yet so often I find myself trying to give it away. Are You really there?

My heart doubts sometimes.

Too often I feel as if I stand in the open fields and reminisce about the gods I once worshiped. My hearts wants to abandon You. I long for the days when I sought my desires rather than Yours. Help me, Father, to give myself to You, my rightful owner. Save me from those who would take me from You.

April 28, 2004

Stumbling Blocks

"Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the Lord." Leviticus 19:14

My son's best friend recently wrote a research paper on something few of us really understand - what it is like to be blind. As part of his research, he spent an entire school day without his ability to see. The stories he shared about this experience are both interesting and disturbing.

The day was planned in advance. His teachers and friends were fully aware of the experiment. When it was all over, he commented how much he had learned, especially who his real friends were.

As if the challenge wasn't great enough, most of his day was spent steering around obstacles and listening to the taunts of others. One teacher had special fun calling on him to read what was on the board; others laughed as he bumped into walls and desks. Very few - only one that I know of, my daughter - reached out to say, "Let me help you."

Oh, the obstacles and jeers were all in jest. He has been a part of many pranks in his day. But what disturbs me most is: this day was spent at a Christian school.

Aren't we called to a higher standard? Shouldn't we be reaching out to a brother who is in need - if only for a one day experiment? If we cannot help on one day, how can we expect to make a difference in a life time?

God commands us to be holy because He is holy. Shouldn't we help just because it is the right thing to do?

Lord, forgive us. We are Your Body, yet we don't reach out to our brothers - much less the lost among us. Help me to be mindful of those who need to be reminded of Your love. Give me the grace to care for those in need of Your touch.

May 3, 2004

A Fresh Start

"When the sun goes down, he will be clean, and after that he may eat the sacred offerings, for they are his food." Leviticus 22:7

There are so many ways to become ceremonially unclean; it seems that there wouldn't often be enough priests to fulfill the requirements of service at the Tent of Meeting. Even intimacy with one's wife would have made a priest unclean. Thank goodness, every evening brought with it renewal. It was then that a priest who had been exposed in some way to uncleanness was declared to be clean. Every morning was a new day. The uncleanness of yesterday was gone.

Lord, I acknowledge that today is a new day. Over the past few days I've felt as if I had fallen into a pit. I allowed myself to get over-tired, and depression fell on my like a ton of bricks. But one by one, You have removed each brick. Thank You for the renewal of Your Spirit. Make today fresh and new. Thank You for being the God of fresh starts.

May 4, 2004

Forgotten Feasts

So Moses announced to the Israelites the appointed feasts of the Lord. Leviticus 23:44

We've lost something in the church today. Our modern church calendar revolves around two days, Christmas and Easter - two very important days to be sure. But somehow we've lost a sense of ongoing community.

The Jewish calendar was established with celebration feasts at appointed times during the year. Today, using the term "feast" generally makes me think of a meal, but oftentimes an Israelite feast entailed a full week of celebration. The entire community stopped to focus on what God had done for them.

Now, we are all work. We have forgotten to rest. The Sabbath means little. Our celebrations tend to consist of gifts for the kids and a day of over-eating for the adults.

Lord, forgive us for forgetting You throughout the year. Turn our hearts back to You each day, so You might be glorified and the world will be changed.

May 6, 2004

Everything is His!

"'The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants.'" Leviticus 25:23

Although the land was promised to Abraham's descendants, in truth, it belonged to God. The children of Israel were not to sell or give away the land permanently, for it didn't really belong to them in the first place.

Lord, in truth, nothing we can acquire in this life belongs to us; it all belongs to You. We may have heirlooms that are passed from one generation to the next, but everything is simply on loan - even our children are on loan from You.

Everything is Yours!

Father, help me to be a faithful servant who cares for his Master's things and willingly gives to whom his Master requires. Forgive my selfishness. May You be honored today in my work.

May 7, 2004

To Be Afraid of Nothing

"'As for those of you who are left, I will make their hearts so fearful in the lands of their enemies that the sound of a windblown leaf will put them to flight. They will run as though fleeing from the sword, and they will fall even though no one is pursuing them.'" Leviticus 26:36

To be afraid of nothing... Depending on the inflection, this phrase can describe both sides of obedience. God promises that He will take care of His children. Those who obey Him can be afraid of nothing, for there is nothing to fear. Those who disobey, on the other hand, will be afraid of nothing; fear will consume them - even when there is nothing to fear.

Lord, I want to stand courageously rather than to fall in weakness. Help me to fear nothing because I am obedient to Your Word, rather than fearing nothing because I am consumed with fear.

May 9, 2004

The Value of A Life

"Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'If anyone makes a special vow to dedicate persons to the Lord by giving equivalent values, set the value of a male between the ages of twenty and sixty at fifty shekels of silver, according to the sanctuary shekel; and if it female, set her value at thirty shekels.'" Leviticus 27:2?

How can you put a value on a life?

God established a means to redeem persons, animals, and land that had been dedicated to Him. But how can we really put a value on a person's life? Now, that isn't what God was doing. He set values for redemption so the people wouldn't disregard the importance of making vows to Him. But it makes me wonder...

Yesterday, I played a concert at a local church. The turn out was disappointing to the pastor, but oftentimes I find the smallest audiences are blessed the most; and likewise, they provide the greatest blessings in return. After the concert, I spent quite a while talking with some who had attended. How interesting it was - from a young pastor whose British accent stands out in a West Texas crowd to a young woman asking my advice about being a musician and seeking God's will. The experience helped me see that God values every one of us.

The longest conversation lasted for almost two hours after everyone had left. It was with a man who some may have feared. His face was hidden by a fuzzy beard; he drives a Triumph motorcycle, and he spoke of his younger days serving in Vietnam and his desire to teach. He told many tales of pursuing degrees in Microbiology and Philosophy, of his travels which included visiting the grave of a father he barely knew, and of how God respects the sovereignty of man but sometimes chooses to intervene in accordance with His will. Although He spoke of many things, he never spoke of love - of a wife and children - of friends along the way.

As a thunderstorm which I had watched for over an hour moved in, I finally had the reason to say it was time to leave. It was then that he tossed out a final thought - how he had been spiritually dead for years. It was obvious to me that God is working to renew Himself in this man's life; his words reflected an acknowledgement of God's place in our lives and in our universe.

But I wish our conversation had started at the end. It would have been interesting to hear how the Lord brought him to this place - a place of value in God's sight.

Lord, help me to see the value of those around me. How fascinating it is that You can love each of us as You do! You placed so much value upon us that the price for our redemption was the very life of Your Son. Help me to never disregard how great a price You paid.

Thank You, Father, for redeeming me - despite a life sprinkled with failure. Your grace is truly amazing.

May 12, 2004

The Firstborn

"The Levites are mine, for all the firstborn are mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set apart for myself every firstborn in Israel, whether man or animal. They are to be mine. I am the Lord." Numbers 3:12b-13

Did the firstborn from among the Israelites understand the full weight of what God did for them? By all rights, the firstborn of Israel would have been taken with the firstborn of the Egyptians, but God sent His angel to pass over them. Rather than taking the firstborn from each family, God took the Levites in their place as the first fruits offering.

Lord, there are times I wish You would take my firstborn and put him to work somewhere else... there's just something about an 18-year old! His strength of character is often contrasted by his lack of judgment. He is, however, the first fruits - the best I have to offer to the world. He lives up to it; he IS the best mark I can leave on society. Use my son for mighty things. Continue to pour out Your blessing upon him, so You might be glorified.

May 17, 2004

Vows

"'He must fulfill the vow he has made, according to the law of the Nazirite.'" Numbers 6:21b

Vows. How seriously do we take them? We live in a time when many who have said those words, "forsaking all others...," don't take them seriously anymore.

To God, vows are important. They set us apart from the world, which is committed to nothing but itself. Like the Nazirite, who was to live his live as one consecrated to the Lord, those who take vows are to stand out in the crowd. Others should know right away that something is different.

Am I living that way? When others see me, do they see a husband and father? Or do they see a man who is chasing success in any way he can get it?

Lord, there are times I wonder what I am about. Help others to see me as one who is committed to his family - as one who is committed to You. Help me to fulfill my vows. Make in me a clean heart today.

May 19, 2004

Someday May Never Come

"...but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer." Numbers 8:25

I've heard it said that retirement is not a biblical principle. Maybe it is modern man's way of justifying our addiction to work. Although I like the idea of leaving a full-time job, I have always felt retirement is something for other people. I expect a day will eventually come when I leave the constant push of the workforce, but I've never expected to quit working. Someday, I'll open a shop. Someday, I'll enter full-time ministry. Someday...

Lord, You directed retirement for the Levites. Their service to the Tent of Meeting lasted from the age of twenty-five to the age of fifty. Help me to change my thinking about slowing down towards the end of my life. Help me to slow down today, for someday may never come.

May 21, 2004

Writing it out...

As I am sitting down at my computer this morning, I feel that same old pit in my stomach starting to well up within me. The adrenaline in my system cries out to be let loose... "Please, free us from this place! Let us run rampant throughout your body. Feast your eyes on what will excite - on what will allow us to do our dirty work."

Oh, how I hate this feeling... this sense that if I don't get some type of release - some form of escape from the loneliness, I may waste away into nothingness. My body longs to give in to the sinful urges that once brought comfort - if only for a few moments. The euphoria of my addictive rantings calls from my past begging me to give in - to let go - to cross that 2-second barrier into the dark places of the spider's web.

But despite my feelings... I have a friend, whom I refuse to disappoint today. I made a commitment. I told him that I would work diligently to stay away from the smallest escapes, for with them comes disaster.

Thank you, my friend. Thank you for holding me accountable - for shifting my eyes away from myself to the One who meets all my needs and my deepest desires. May God bless you this day.

May 23, 2004

Why was it only Miriam?

When the cloud lifted from above the Tent, there stood Miriam - leprous, like snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had leprosy. Numbers 12:10

God was angry. Miriam and Aaron had been speaking out against Moses. They weren't very fond of his wife, but I don't believe that was the real issue. The real issue for them was jealousy. They, too, had been used by God. Why weren't they getting the recognition their brother was?

When God called them to the Tent of Meeting, He scolded them for their bold gossip, then He left them. Miriam was struck with leprosy for her sin. Yet Aaron was unharmed.

Why was it only Miriam?

Aaron spoke out as well. Why didn't God strike him, too? Was it because he was the priest? Simply being a priest wouldn't protect him from the wrath of God. Nadab and Abihu, Aaron's sons, were proof that even a priest couldn't take God's commands lightly - especially a priest.

I have another thought. Maybe Miriam was struck because she was the instigator. There's no way of knowing for sure, but generally if comments are going to be made in an emotional frenzy, I expect they might come from a woman.

Now, I realize the sexism in that statement... don't stone me yet.

It isn't meant to degrade. It is meant to accept the truth. As a general rule, God made women to be more sensitive. Too often, men err on the side of apathy. We need each other. Together, we are more balanced because apart we tend to be on the extreme.

Lord, help me to accept the differences between men and women. Help me to understand that the emotional approach my wife normally takes is a gift from You. Help us to find the balance that eludes us at times.

Forgive my apathy.

May 27, 2004

Facing the Plague

So Aaron did as Moses said, and ran into the midst of the assembly. The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them. Numbers 16:47

Things were out of control. The Israelites were barred from entering the promised land, and they were facing forty years of living in the desert. Pockets of dissension began to rise up, and God took quick action. Among the rebels were Korah and his followers, who were swallowed alive by the earth. The rest of the people blamed Moses, and without much warning, people began to die. God had sent a plague.

Moses and Aaron responded. Facing death, Aaron literally ran into the midst of the plague with incense to make atonement.

Could you imagine what it would be like? To run into the midst of a crowd where people are dying around you? Aaron knew that inaction on his part would result in complete ruin. What courage it took to face the very wrath of God.

Lord, sometimes I feel like my life is full of dissension. It seems like a plague has begun to spread, and it will take courageous men to counter it. The discouragement around me is great; things appear to be out of control. Morale seems to dip lower with every passing day. Without courage on the part of a few, utter ruin could result. Many lives can be devastated by this discouragement.

Give us courage. Give us wisdom. Forgive our arrogance, and draw us to You. There are many in our midst who don't really know You. Many are searching. Show Yourself, Father, and be glorified.

June 3, 2004

Like a Donkey

When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, she turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat her to get her back on the road. Numbers 22:23

There are many great men in the Bible that I try to emulate. I long to have the heart of David, the insight of John, the compassion of Timothy. But who would ever think of praying, "Would You give me the eyes of a donkey?"

Balaam's donkey had eyes to see things that Balaam himself could not see. Now, Balaam wasn't just any guy off the street. He had a reputation as one who spoke to God. Those he cursed were cursed, and those he blessed were blessed. What was it that shut his eyes on this particular day?

Was it the money? Balak had offered to pay him handsomely if he would come curse the Israelites for him. We don't really know what it was. God had told him to go, and Balaam had strict instructions to do only what God told him. However, the angel of the Lord quickly came to oppose him; apparently Balaam's heart wasn't as it should have been. Three times, Balaam's donkey saved his life. Rather than receiving a reward, she was beaten. It takes courage to go a different way when those around you can't see what you do.

Is it courage? Or is courage simply fearing one thing more than another?

Lord, so many times I ask for courage to stand against the enemy. Am I asking for the right thing? Maybe I should be asking to be like Balaam's donkey. Maybe I should ask for insight - and fear. If I could see the truth and I could fear You more than my enemy, maybe I wouldn't disappoint You - and myself - so much.

Help me, Spirit, to see the world around me today and to fear God... like a donkey.

June 8, 2004

Sorcery?

Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he did not resort to sorcery as at other times, but turned his face toward the desert. Numbers 24:1

The truth about Balaam is revealed. He isn't a prophet; he is a sorcerer. He previously referred to God as "his God," but as was the custom in his day, he may have worshiped many gods. The words he spoke in his first two oracles were conjured up by a sorcerer's tricks rather than revealed by the will of God. Balaam's third oracle, however, was spoken directly by the Spirit of God.

Lord, I don't think I would know the first thing about sorcery. Or would I?

How often am I guilty of attempting to conjure up Your words for my gain? We all have our little rituals... maybe this little prayer will get me this or that little prayer will get me that.

Help me, Lord, to be completely open to Your Spirit. Protect me in the choices I make, and reveal Your will so I may walk in it.

June 11, 2004

Unexpected Pain

Then the Lord said to Moses, "Go up this mountain in the Abarim range and see the land I have given the Israelites. After you have seen it, you too will be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was." Numbers 27:12-13

Moses was given a luxury that many never have. He was told that his time had come. His death was near. The Lord gave him the opportunity to get his affairs in order, and Joshua was appointed to replace him.

The brevity of life is on my heart this morning. Yesterday, I received a prayer request for a couple at church whose niece was killed in an automobile accident. She and a friend were returning home from new student orientation at college when their car apparently went off the road. Both girls died. Oh, how excited they must have been! They were registered for classes and ready for college in the fall. How sad that their lives were cut short as the excitement was really beginning.

I guess this hits me hard because my son was at that same student orientation. It really is an exciting time in life. He's finally registered for classes. He now sees himself as a college freshman (actually, he's almost a sophomore before stepping foot in class). I cannot imagine the pain of losing him as he embarks on this journey. The pain - the devastation experienced by these two families must be unbearable. Lord, bring Your comfort to them. And watch over my children. My fear seems greater as they get older. The worry could overtake me. Send your Spirit to protect them and to comfort me.

Death is so often unexpected, Father. The fact is: we should live every day like it is our last. Our affairs should be in order. We should try to end our lives with no regrets, regardless of when it is.

Help me to live a live that honors You.

June 12, 2004

The Important Things

The Lord said to Moses, "Give this command to the Israelites and say to them: 'See that you present to me at the appointed time the food for my offerings made by fire, as an aroma pleasing to me.'" Numbers 28:1-2

The Israelites faced a crucial transition. Joshua was to succeed Moses, for soon Moses was going to die. As God had commanded, the generation who saw the salvation from Egypt would not see the promised land. They were all gone. A new generation would carry on. But would they understand what was really important? Would they follow God and God only?

In Scripture, immediately after God announced Joshua's new position of leadership, the Israelites are reminded of the required offerings. Why is it repeated? This generation must have grown up with the sacrificial offerings as a part of life. Wouldn't it simply carry on without a new command from God?

Unfortunately, we are prone to forget things at important transitions. When we experience one success or cross a milestone, we tend to see ourselves as the source of victory. This seems to be human nature.

Lord, I feel like I have forgotten the important things in life lately. My actions over the past year have been a transition. I am not as trapped by the chains that held me for so long. But somehow I feel lost. I feel like Peter Pan when he lost his shadow. My spirits seems disconnected. Can You help me find it? Can You be my Wendy and sew it back again?

Jesus, I want life to be more than ritual. I want a relationship with You that is so real that others see You in me. Help me to find my shadow again.

Will You be my shadow today?

July 4, 2004

A Circumcised Heart

Circumcise your hearts therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. Deuteronomy 10:16

Righteousness begins in the heart. And every action we take is a reflection of the condition of our hearts.

Lord, my heart is full - full of joy. You have truly blessed me, and I have no regrets. Thank You for such a refreshing week. I have seen You in the hands of my brother.

Help me to circumcise my heart, and help me to continue to walk on the path of righteousness. Oh, there is a long way to go, but what a wonderful journey it is when I am not alone.

July 28, 2004

Reputation

The man's line shall be known in Israel as The Family of the Unsandaled. Deuteronomy 25:10

Things have certainly changed over the years. According to the law of Moses, in order to carry on family names, a man was required to marry his brother's widow, so she could bear a son for her dead husband. If her brother-in-law refused, she performed an interesting ritual that dealt with his reputation more than anything else. She was to take off his sandal, spit in his face, and proclaim that his line would be know as The Family of the Unsandaled.

So what is the big deal? How does this do anything?

In truth, reputation means a lot. For generations, a man's reputation can be known as one who followed God or rebelled against Him.

Lord, give me a reputation as one who lived His life in the shadow of Your grace.

August 12, 2004

Nothing Special

"I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit." John 1:33

Jesus was ordinary... at least on the outside. There wasn't really anything special about Him. John the Baptist said of Jesus, "I would not have known him." He simply looked like one of us.

So why have so many artists over the centuries depicted Jesus as a man who was bigger than life? Even though he was called the "true light," I don't think he glowed. Rooms did not suddenly light up when He walked into them. He was simply ordinary.

What made the difference? Why were so many drawn to Him? Obviously, it wasn't His appearance.

I believe it was His heart, and how He shared it. His words drew people. He was a carpenter's son from a little place called Nazareth - a nobody from the middle of nowhere, yet He was called Rabbi - teacher. Jesus Himself was proof that circumstances are not always what they appear to be. We must look inside before we know the truth.

Lord, too often I judge based upon the outward appearance of a situation without looking inside. I seem to panic over little things before I get the whole picture. Help me to slow down - to approach this day with wisdom and peace. In You, Rabbi, I will find life.

August 18, 2004

None Lost?

"And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all he has given me, but raise them up at the last day." John 6:39

There are times I have felt that I've messed up my life so much that even the blood of Christ couldn't save me. It isn't that I don't know the truth. Salvation cannot be taken from us. But how many Christians doubt sometimes? I am not alone.

Jesus Himself said he would lose none of those the Father had given to Him. Do I believe His words?

Yes, I do.

Lord, today I choose to focus on You. My sins must be left behind. I am Your's. Give me confidence to walk in Your amazing grace.

August 30, 2004

Putting on the Show

Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiaphus to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them… John 18:28-29a

I can hardly believe it. The Jews would not enter Pilate’s palace in order to avoid ceremonial uncleanness while their hands were already soiled with innocent blood. How ridiculous that these so-called men of God could be so strict about ritual, and at the same time carry out the greatest atrocity since the creation of the world. How arrogant! Clinging to a god of their own making while rejecting the very God who made them.

Unfortunately, there are many today who continue to put on the show – trying to appear as clean when their hearts are steeped in sin.

In actuality, we have all done it.

What married couple hasn’t fought on the way to church and stopped the moment they walked in the door? What pastor or Sunday School teacher hasn’t stood before others speaking of righteousness when he did God knows what the night before? Will we ever learn? To love God with our whole hearts – this is the ritual He requires.

Lord, forgive me for the ways I have put on the show. Too many times I have worried about my image when I have forgotten the image in which I was made. Help me to live a life that looks the same in the mirror as it does to those around me. Wash me clean for I have not lived the clean life to which I have been called.

August 31, 2004

A Horrible Honor

Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. John 19:40

What would it have been like to prepare the body of Jesus for burial? It must have been awful. The lifeless body of your teacher lay before you, limp and bloodied. How could you do it?

Joseph of Arimethea and Nicodemus - two men drawn together for this daunting task - must have had quite a story to tell. What did they speak about as they cleaned the dried blood and dirt from His body? Could they even speak at all? Did they separate themselves from their emotions to simply complete the job, or could they see past the tears? What an intimate scene it had to be - washing and wrapping the naked body of their fallen brother, the Messiah - the Christ.

Gently, gently they must have bathed Him - touching Him in ways they never could have imagined. One by one, the strips of linen were wrapped around the wounds of the One who healed so many. What a horrible honor to serve the Master like this - to carefully lay His body in a dark and lonely tomb. This privilege known only by two men is something I'm certain they would rather have missed.

Very soon, these painful memories would fade into the joy of His resurrection. But I wonder... Did the smell of those spices, the sight of blood, or the silence and darkness of night take them back to those awful moments after the cross?

Lord, many times in life I have been beaten by the whips of the enemy. He taunts me; he tears at my spirit telling me I am worthless - I am nothing. But the joy of Your resurrection shines brighter than my sin. One by one, You have wrapped my wounds. You anoint me with Your holy oil. You felt the pain of death, so I can have life eternal.

Come again, Lord Jesus! I await Your return.

September 3, 2004

Wearers of the Crown

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. James 1:13

Who is it that wears a crown? It isn't a peasant. It is the king, the prince, those in the line of royalty - those born of noble blood.

Isn't that what we are? As God's children, either by birth or adoption, aren't we in a royal line? Weren't we born of the most noble blood of all - reborn by the shed blood of Jesus Christ?

As those born of noble blood, the crown is always within our reach. But why is it such a struggle to wear it? We cannot seem to stand the tests of everyday. We cannot seem to persevere under the trials of life. Will we ever receive the crown God has promised? Or must we wait until we are in the throne room of heaven?

Lord, Your Word says that we will receive the crown promised to us when we have stood the test. Help me to stand the test. For so many years, I haven't persevered; I've quit running the race. But the crown has always been there within my grasp - ready to be worn.

Father, I believe the biggest tests of my life are yet to come. There is hope in this. Maybe the crown awaiting me is the most precious. I believe it is. Give me the strength to persevere. Give me the strength to stand the test. Give me the strength to wear the crown.

September 9, 2004

To Know Nothing Else

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 1 Corinthians 2:2

Churches are bound to experience problems. In my opinion, the biggest problem is not from the outside world, but from within. Many churches are trapped by something you wouldn't expect: arrogance. Many seem to think God has revealed Himself to them in a special way; they have all the answers - they have the right theology, and others should just get on board.

Who are we - as mere men - to think we know the mind of God?

Even the Apostle Paul didn't know it. He didn't claim to have some unique ability that gave him superior knowledge of God's theology. He resolved to know one thing. That one thing was Christ - and Christ alone.

Through Paul's relationship with Jesus Christ, we have been given insight to many things from the mind of God. It was the Spirit Himself who spoke many things through Paul; almost half the New Testament was written by Paul's pen. How could we in the Church do any less than to lean on that same Spirit who speaks from the very heart of God?

Lord, forgive us for worrying so much about theology. Sometimes we forget about You. Your concern is unity among Your children. Can we as the Body of Christ ever be unified?

Help me, Spirit, to resolve to know nothing else except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. It is when I know Him that I am given insight on how to live well, how to love properly, and how to walk the path of righteousness. I want only You, Lord.

That's enough for me. Just You!

September 10, 2004

The Toughest Test

If any man builds on this foundation using gold, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. 1 Corinthians 3:12-13

Fire is one of the toughest tests on earth. How could anything survive it? Can life continue after it has done its work?

Consider a mighty forest fire. When the flames have stopped and the ground has grown cool again, it seems nothing could have lived through it. From all appearances, the land is dead. How could it ever be the same? Charred trees and ash cover the landscape leaving it barren and seemingly lifeless. But as time passes, new life begins. With enough time, a new forest will grow, and there are few signs of the destruction that was so apparent.

Consider a man. If his home is completely destroyed by fire, does he rebuild? Does he throw up his hands and walk away? Does he see this as God's plan, calling him to leave and rebuild elsewhere?

Consider a friendship. How does it fair the fires of sin, deception, and betrayal? Will trust ever be seen again? Can the closest of friends survive the flames? Or will they live the remainder of life as bitter enemies?

Lord, I have been burned by Your holy fire. I am saddened by what has been lost. From all appearances, all hope seems to be gone. In You, there is life. Help me to see new life again.

September 21, 2004

To be an infant again...

Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. 1 Corinthians 14:20

Paul told the Corinthians to be infants in regard to evil. Oh, to be an infant again... If only we could go back and unlearn the evil things we have come to know over the years.

How can we do it? Can we simply flip a switch that makes us no longer capable of understanding the enemy's words? No longer able to hear his voice? I am not at all proud of the things I know, but how can I erase them from my thoughts? How can I forget the things I have done?

Lord, somehow You forgive and forget. Help me to do the same. Make me like an infant in regard to evil. Give me eyes of innocence that cannot comprehend the ways of the enemy. Help me to forgive myself for what I have learned. Make my thoughts Your thoughts.

September 23, 2004

Effective Opposition?

But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me. 1 Corinthians 16:8-9

Effective work is almost always tougher than we expect. The Apostle Paul spoke of an opportunity to work effectively in Ephesus, and within these simple words there is a lesson.

First, Paul acknowledged the fact that effective work takes time. He planned to stay in Ephesus "until Pentecost." He knew that for his work to be fruitful, it would require a commitment to say at it - for the long haul. Effectiveness is not displayed overnight. It requires patience and diligence, but God will honor our effort.

Second, Paul addressed the opposition he will face. As if he was pleased to have forces opposing him, he said, "there are many who oppose me." Paul recognized that the enemy normally leaves us alone if we are ineffective. Why should he waste his time? If we are ineffective in what we do, it only serves the enemy's purpose - to tear apart rather than build.

Lord, teach me the lessons Paul learned. When I consider the challenges I face, I sometimes feel like a failure. It often takes too long. There are too many people opposed to what I want to do. Help me to understand these are actually good signs! These signs help me to see that my effort must be stirring up the enemy's camp.

Help me to not be discouraged. Help me to be on my guard, to stand firm in the faith - to be strong and courageous. May Your work be realized today.

September 25, 2004

The Fragrance of Life

To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. 2 Corinthians 2:16a

How is it that some things can be pleasant to one person and horrible for another? Paul compared himself to something like this. To those trapped in sin, he was like the smell of death; the words he spoke were unpleasant to their ears. But to those in Christ, his words were quite pleasing, bringing about renewal and life.

What made the difference? The same words were embraced by one and rejected by the other. The fact is: the problem wasn't the speaker or the truths which he spoke, the problem was with the one hearing them. The very words of life spoken to one who is lost are often perceived as death. Rather than bringing joy, the truth brings about mourning and grief.

Lord, my heart is heavy this morning; it is breaking for one whom I love, for one he loves has perceived the truth as a lie. The one he loves hears life-giving words and believes they are filled with death. It isn't the words; it is the one who hears them. He is trapped by anger - by addiction. He has been ensnared by the lies of the enemy.

Holy Spirit, intervene in the heart of this young man. His whole life stands before him. Draw him back to You. Free him from this pit, so he might hear the truth more clearly. His only hope is in You. Give me the words to say to my friend; give me the words to pray for his son. Save him, Father. Let him smell the fragrance of life.

October 2, 2004

Weighty Words

For some say, "His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person, he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing." 2 Corinthians 10:10

Paul was real. He was authentic. What he wrote in a letter, he would courageously say in person.

Recently, I have been reading a book that is full of great reflection and insight. A friend of mine has known the author for over twenty years, and when I mentioned I was reading it, he commented about his surprise when he read it. From him perspective, the author in person never seemed so intuitive. The book is bold, yet my friend said the author is pretty meek.

I wonder what others think of me if they read my words.

Years ago, I had a rude awakening about how others see me in person. The first book in the "Left Behind" series had just become a bestseller. One day during a conference, the book became the topic of discussion at the lunch table. I commented to my co-workers about some of the spiritual aspects of the book. A man from another city who had merely seen me in seminars looked at me and plainly stated, "You know. I have never seen you as a spiritual person."

Ouch! For a Christian man who finds great joy in the Word, reflecting upon it - writing out my thoughts, I was stunned. I sure wasn't portraying myself the way I wanted!

I have never forgotten those words. Every day I try to live out the truth which the Spirit reveals to me. But I often wonder... Am I the same man when my Bible is not on my lap?

Lord, help me to be an authentic man. Help me to become a man of reflection and wisdom. Help me to become more like Christ. When others look at me, let there be no doubt; I am Yours.

October 6, 2004

Without Excuse

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Romans 1:20

In truth, there is no man who will get to the end of his life without knowing God is real. Any man who claims he never saw Him is a fool and a liar. He is evident in all of creation. No man can truly refute His existence.

Recently, I saw an interview with Rick Warren, the author or "The Purpose Driven Life" and pastor of Saddleback Church in Southern California. Interestingly, he stated that for the first several months he was in California he simply knocked on doors and talked to people about God and the church. He commented that in all his knocking, he didn't find one atheist. Not one! In Southern California?! Every person he met believed in God, yet most were disillusioned with the church.

My guess is that even the most vocal atheists tend to doubt their beliefs at times.

My son has a college professor who gained national notoriety when he refused to provide recommendation letters for students who would not acknowledge evolution as fact. It has been an interesting lesson for my son - to sit in a class with a brilliant teacher who has been dooped by the enemy. Even this man will someday be surprised when God asks, "Did you know Me and My Son?"

Lord, continue to reveal Yourself to the world. Forgive us for denying You. Bring Your children out of the shadows into the light, so that those trapped in the darkness might find hope. Change the hearts of the lost. Soften the heart of my son's teacher.

October 23, 2004

Where's Dad?

I will proclaim the decree of the Lord: He said to me, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father." Psalm 2:7

What happened? Once a godly place, our nation has been overrun with crime, addiction, and turmoil. Integrity and character were once the mark of a strong man, yet we live in a time when even a president is considered weak because he puts his faith in God. How could this have happened?

All you need to do is to take a look around. Before long, the answer will be clear. Before long, you will be asking yourself a question.

Where have all the fathers gone?

So many boys are tossed about searching for him. So many men are struggling with life due to the loss of him. Without fathers, a nation is coming to ruin.

I think my own father was lost long before I was born. His father, too, somehow disappeared along the way. Most of us might admit - the man who lived in the house wasn't really a father. He was a little boy in the body of a man overwhelmed with responsibility. He never really grew up. His dad wasn't there to help him, so how could he become a man?

Little boys weren't meant to be fathers. Little boys were meant to be sons.

But there is hope. There is One who calls out to us, "You are my son! I have become your Father." He will help us. He will fill the void.

Lord, You are Father to the fatherless. You are my Father. You are showing me ways to heal - ways to grow - ways to become the father my son needs to see. Pour Yourself into me. I never want my children to stand next to me and wonder, "Where's Dad?"

October 28, 2004

Of My Own Making

He who digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit he has made. Psalm 7:15

Most of the trouble I experience is trouble of my own making. Comments made without much thought have either embarrassed me or have later been used against me. Decisions made to stay in a place I shouldn't be, or to return there, have opened the door to the darkest of dungeons. Temptations that were not rebuked the moment they surfaced - that were nursed in the recesses of my mind - pulled me into sin that resulted in years of secrecy and pain.

Lord, forgive me. The deepest of pits into which I have fallen have been formed by my own hands. Help me to see that Your grace can fill any pit; Your grace can erase any sin - especially those of my own making. Fill me with Your Spirit today.

October 30, 2004

Forsaken

Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:10

How many of us can say we understand what it is like to be forsaken, to be neglected, to be abandoned?

I have a friend who can be a little absent-minded. His daughter likes to remind him of the time he unintentionally left her at a gas station. It wasn't until he arrived at home and saw the look on his wife's face that he realized what he had done. Somehow, I don't think I would let him forget it either.

I don't recall having a similar experience myself. Even with a large family and many trips in separate vehicles, I was never left behind. I know it is possible; when my sister was about five, we once made it to church without her. But abandonment is not always physical.

Unfortunately, the emotional abandonment I experienced as a child laid a foundation for years of confusion - years of pain - years of trying to measure up. Oh, I know my parents tried, but they really didn't know how to overcome their own memories of physical and emotional abandonment.

Lord, Your Word says You have never forsaken anyone who seeks You. Even so, why are there times that I feel abandoned by You? Within these words - within this truth, I can find the answer... "those who seek you." So many times, I have stopped seeking. The abandonment is not by You.

It is by me.

O Father, forgive me for the times I have not sought You with my whole heart. Help me to find You again. Continue to help me as I seek to find myself again. Reveal Yourself to me. Reveal those things in me that keep me from You. I will trust in You and You alone.

November 4, 2004

Does God exist?

The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." Psalm 14:1a

Possibly the most fundamental of all questions is this: Does God exist?

If He doesn't, nothing we say or do matters. Moral values are meaningless. Right and wrong are silly concepts that govern the weak.

But if He does exist, everything matters. There is true meaning to life. For if He is what He says He is, those who believe will enjoy eternity serving in His presence.

What an awesome future!

Lord, I accepted Your existence as a child, but there are times even now that I doubt. Am I speaking to the air when I pray? Am I deranged to believe that anything exists beyond what can be seen or touched?

Some would say I am crazy - to believe that there is a God who created all this AND loves me, too. Despite the times I might wonder, I really do believe. I have no scientific proof of His existence, but the eyes of my heart see God everyday. I feel His touch in the moments I need it most.

O Holy Lord, I would rather be a fool and believe in what is real than to be a wise man who clings to nothing. Do You exist? Of course You do! Without Your intervention, mankind would have destroyed himself long ago. The mere fact that we exist is proof enough for me.

Show Yourself to me, Lord.

November 8, 2004

Mountaintops

He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights. Psalm 18:33

Oh, how I love mountaintops. To stand above everything - to see farther than the eye could see - to literally experience the presence of God... what a wonderful place to be.

For so long, Lord, I have dwelt in the valley. I haven't been capable of standing on the heights, and the valley has been a safe place. Somehow I forgot how beautiful life can be from Your vantage point. On the mountain the air is thin, but the view is spectacular. You will sustain me.

Be my very breath, Father. Continue to strengthen my feet as we scale the cliffs and mountain paths together. You are my Rock and my salvation. Thank You for this wonderful peace - on top of the mountain.

November 14, 2004

Quiet Waters

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters. Psalm 23:2

Quiet waters...

Have you ever stood by a rushing river? White water races, roaring downstream. Yet only inches away, places can be found along the bank where the water is quiet and peaceful.

Lord, I have spent too much time racing downstream. It has left me confused about where I have been and uncertain about where I am going. But You are opening my eyes to see the quiet places within inches of the rushing water - the places I can find You.

Thank You for bringing peace into my life. Thank You for the loving arms of Your Spirit that wrap around my soul. Help me to soak in the quiet waters. May You be glorified today.

November 21, 2004

Wait for Him

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14

What is the purpose of healing and wholeness? In the eyes of the world, once something has been repaired, it is time to use it. Even with the human body, we tend to expect that someone who has been injured can jump quickly back into the race - maybe a little bit slower. The reasoning is: if we are strong, shouldn't we use it to our advantage? Shouldn't we get moving?

David says to wait. Be strong - and wait. Wait for the Lord.

Lord, help me to be whole. Strengthen me, so I might serve You. But help me to wait for You. No amount of healing is worth it if I run ahead of You. Teach me to walk beside You today.

November 23, 2004

His Whisper

The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic. Psalm 29:4

How often have I prayed, "Lord, let me hear Your voice"? Do I really understand such a request?

God's voice is the most powerful force in the universe. By merely speaking, He brought everything into existence. His voice is often described as roaring thunder. To hear His voice, in truth, would be a terrifying experience.

But isn't it amazing how His whisper brings nothing but peace? There is nothing that quiets the human soul like the soft whisper of God.

Lord, quiet the anxiety of my heart. Bring peace where there has only been turmoil. Let me hear Your soft whisper today.

December 7, 2004

Pleasing Him

Be pleased, O Lord, to save me; O Lord, come quickly to help me. Psalm 40:13

What is it that pleases God? For some strange reason I sometimes think He takes pleasure in punishing the wicked. Maybe my view is distorted because there are too many fathers who do little more than punish their children. Somehow my perception of God as a punisher has been twisted.

In reality, I believe God takes no pleasure in punishing those He has created. It must break His heart. But as holy and righteous, He cannot disregard sin. If sin is ignored, it will fester. The only solution is atonement.

That's why He died in our place.

He loved mankind so much that He couldn't bear destroying us. By taking the punishment Himself, at least some could be saved.

Lord, thank You for saving us. Thank You for saving me. Be pleased, Father. Make me an instrument of Your love and mercy that brings music to Your ears and to the world.

December 8, 2004

Pleased with Imperfection

I know that you are pleased with me, for my enemy does not triumph over me. Psalm 41:12

If anyone has ever struggled to forgive himself, it is me. For some reason, I seem to have decided that God must not like me very much because I feel so imperfect. How could I ever please Him?

This is foolishness.

If God were not pleased with me, I expect that He would have allowed the enemy to destroy me long ago. Yet, here I am - carrying on, growing in Him. How could one who displeases God ever feel so close to Him?

Lord, help me to put aside my imperfection. Show me that Your love of me is not conditional - nor should mine be. Teach me to walk in Your ways. May I be pleasing to You in all I say and do - no matter how imperfect.

December 12, 2004

Wake Up!

Awake, O Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever. Psalm 44:23

Sometimes it feels like God is sleeping on the job. But does He ever sleep?

Sometimes it feels like God has rejected us. But does He reject any who seek His face?

Lord, there have been times in my life when I thought you were sleeping. The circumstances were too much to bear. There have been times in my life when I failed to seek Your face. The weight of Your rejection seemed too heavy.

Yet, here I am - sitting in Your presence - knowing with all my heart that You are real... at least until the next time I doubt. Forgive me for questioning Your sovereign will. The toughest times have made me stronger. The deepest valleys have made me appreciate the mountains. The darkest caves have made me long for the light.

I love You, Jesus. Thank You for saving us from eternal rejection. May You be glorified today.

December 17, 2004

For Ever and Ever

For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end. Psalm 48:14

Despite the times I have wandered off the path and found myself in the swamps of the unrighteous, God has always found me and brought me safely home. A day cannot pass when He doesn't know where I am and cannot guide me back to His holy city. What a guide He is! Even to the end of my life He will direct my steps.

All I must do is follow.

Lord, forgive me for wandering away from You on this journey. Thank You for hearing my cries for help. Thank You for calling out my name and guiding me back to You. Give me the resolve to decline the enemy's invitations to walk a different path. Give me the strength to deny his claims against me that would cause me to hide along the way.

You are my God for ever and ever!

December 19, 2004

The Grave

But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself. Psalm 49:15

This life is going to end for all of us. Rich and poor - righteous and wicked, nothing will keep death from us, for everyone who walks the earth has the same destination. Eventually, the grave will welcome each of us into his parlor.

The questions to consider aren't easy. Will we simply stay in the grave? Is there more than just this life? God will redeem the righteous; the poor in spirit will be made rich. But those who chased the world may never see the light of life again.

Lord, so many are lost, and I want to help. Yet I am so afraid of rejection that I would rather condemn someone to hell than to face the embarrassment of sharing the full story of Your grace in my life. Help me to be unafraid. Fill me with a spirit of bold discretion. Use me to draw others back to You.

Redeem my life from the grave.

January 5, 2005

An Inside Look

You have rejected us, O God, and burst forth upon us; you have been angry - now restore us! Psalm 60:1

There are certain verses that are often read as if they are meant just for you, and for someone who has felt rejected most of his life - despite what others have done to convince me otherwise, I tend to get stuck on a verse like this. To me it reads, "You have rejected me, O God, and burst forth upon me; you have been angry - now restore me!"

Why do I feel this way? Why do I so often try to carry the blame for all the wrongs in the world?

Job felt rejected, but was he? We know the truth. God gave us an inside look at what was really happening. Job was afflicted in order to bring glory to God - not because God was angry with him. Despite the pain - despite the bad advice, Job knew the truth. He hadn't done some horrible thing that caused his trouble. Oh, he wasn't perfect; he knew that. And he didn't accept the circumstance with a smile. He moaned and groaned his way through. But more than anything, Job knew God was Sovereign, and he believed in God's unconditional and never-ending love for His children.

Lord, I am so far from perfect, and oftentimes I feel rejected - even by You. But I have something Job didn't. I know beyond all doubt that Jesus has covered my imperfections with His blood. Chase away the enemies who work so diligently to convince me I am worthless. I cannot see them, but I know they are here. Give me an inside look, so I can know Your plan.

Restore me, Spirit, so the Father will be glorified!

January 12, 2005

High Places

From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:2

There are few places as peaceful as a high place. The top of a mountain, the top of a towering skyscraper - there is something so quiet and peaceful about looking down on the busy world below us. It is as if all the problems and worries are just as tiny as the people on the ground.

Lord, be my refuge. Take me to that place that is higher than I. So much of the world is racing by, and I need Your perspective. Help me to lay my worries at Your feet. Give me the clarity that only comes from time spent on the mountain. Give me the strength and energy to fulfill Your purpose. May the world be blessed by the ways You choose to use me.

January 25, 2005

A Harvest Awaits

Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us. Psalm 67:6

There is a harvest that awaits.

God has a plan to pour out abundance - to bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear Him. No man will deny that He exists, that He loves His children, that He is the only One worthy of praise.

Lord, I want to be a harvester. I simply don't know which field I am supposed to harvest. Reveal Yourself anew each day, so I might be the man You intended - the husband You intended - the father You intended.

Thank You for loving me so much that You included me in Your harvest.

March 3, 2005

That Wonderful Taste

As they make music they will sing, "All my fountains are in you." Psalm 87:7

Do you remember when you were a kid... that wonderful taste of water from a garden hose after playing in the hot sun?

Today, people buy bottled water everywhere you turn. Who would have thought you could get people to pay for something that is normally free. (Well, relatively free, I guess...)

I guess it's human nature. We are often willing to pay more than we should for what we really want. But what we really need is free. The Living Water we receive through a relationship with Jesus Christ costs us nothing. It cost Him everything; yet He willingly paid it.

Lord, may all my fountains be in You. You are the Source. Flow through me today.

March 6, 2005

Acclaim Him!

Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord. Psalm 89:15

Will we ever learn everything we need to know? Of course not. Every day is an opportunity for learning. One of the toughest lessons in life is how to acclaim God - to praise Him - in all things. Sometimes, He is hard to see.

How can He be there when the innocent are harmed? When the wicked seem to escape? When His children make choices that will lead to their demise? He's God! Why doesn't He protect the innocent all the time? Immediately punish the wicked? Keep us from sin?

The truth is: we will never really understand His plan - not in this lifetime anyway. Somehow, He brings glory from unfair circumstance. We learn of His healing power when there is sickness - His comfort when there is death - His mercy when there should be none.

Lord, I want to learn to acclaim You in each and every circumstance. Make me a man of spiritual strength. Protect me from the arrows of the enemy. Protect me from the very desires of my heart.

May You be glorified today!

March 22, 2005

Mighty is the Lord

Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea - the Lord on high is mighty. Psalm 93:4

Nothing can knock God down - not the waves of the ocean, not the strongest storm, nor the greatest wind. Our only hope is to cling to Him - to literally attach ourselves to Him, so when we are faced with falling, we will stand strong.

Lord, I have been detached from You lately. The weariness of my body has kept me from our quiet times together, and I feel the strain. I cannot fight the pull of the tide alone. Reach out to save me. Lift me up above the waters, so I might breathe Your holiness.

Wash me clean once again.

March 28, 2005

We have to say it!

He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to the house of Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Psalm 98:3

I heard a radio program the other day that has had me thinking... Have we in the church fallen down in sharing Jesus Christ with our Jewish brothers? Throughout the Bible, we are reminded of the covenant God made with Abraham. God does not forget His covenants, so what are we to make of it? Is there some alternate form of salvation for the Jews?

Of course not! Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." He died for the Jews - not just the Gentiles. In our Judeo-Christian thinking, we sometimes get that turned around.

For me, it is often easier to share the truth of Christ with someone of no faith. To share with someone who believes in the same God but not Jesus, or someone who believes in a distortion of the One True God, is tough - I seem to freeze. The truth is: I am intimidated, and my silence is a reflection of my own faith - or lack of it - not someone else's. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to guide us - to give us the words to say. It seems I simply don't believe He will speak through me in a pinch.

How many times have I had the opportunity to share the truth with someone, who is a person of a faith, but completely lost? How many times has someone knocked on my door to tell me of some "new" revelation - something I fully believe is a lie, and I politely sent them on their way? How many times has my fear kept me from saying what I should? I know I am not confident in my ability to debate matters of faith, but what hurts the most... I am not confident in the Spirit who could speak through me.

Lord, forgive me for not sharing the gospel as I should. Give me the courage and the opportunity to share the truth with my Jewish friends and to my Mormon and Muslim co-workers. Your Spirit could evangelize through a rock - or a pile of garbage. I'm certain You could use me if I am willing. Help me to be aware. Help me to be willing. Live in me - speak through me - today.

April 5, 2005

Treats Are Waiting

When you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. Psalm 104:28b

I think every grandparent jokes about buying the grandkids a pony.

When my children were young, my wife's parents didn't only joke about it; they did it. It was a lifelong dream to own a little place where they could go to get away from the noise of the city. Having grandchildren seemed to be the final encouragement they needed; they bought twenty acres of land outside of town.

The first task my father-in-law tackled was building a barn. He knew it would be a necessity, for to them, there was nothing more satisfying than seeing their grandkids light up around farm animals. Eventually, that barn housed two ponies, four or five cows, a hog, a mule, too many goats to count, quite a few chickens, and a couple roosters. (My daughter didn't like the roosters very much. She was glad when one of them lost a fight with the dog. He wouldn't be around to peck at her anymore.) There was even a corn snake that took up residence in the barn. (I was the one who didn't like him very much. Although he did a good job at keeping the mice away, I wasn't at all unhappy when he frightened my daughter and my father-in-law decided it needed to go.)

One of the lessons I remember about this time of life was the joy, and sometimes the frustration, that comes with tending livestock. Another lesson I learned was about feeding an animal by hand. An open hand sure gets their attention. Apples, carrots, grain - whatever it is, an open hand means treats are waiting. The most important lesson was that an open hand also keeps your fingers from being bitten!

In Psalm 104, the psalmist paints a beautiful picture of God caring for all the creatures on earth. With an open hand, He satisfies them with good things.

This same open hand is extended to us.

Lord, why am I never satisfied? It seems even Your open hand isn't enough sometimes. I seem to expect more - more from everyone else, more from You, more from myself. Teach me to be content. Teach me to be satisfied with the good things you give. Help me to learn that Your open hand means treats are waiting.

Thank You for all You have given me.

April 25, 2005

Remembered Wonders

He has caused his wonders to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and compassionate. Psalm 111:4

Why do we so easily forget the Lord's wonders? He has saved us from so much - not only from eternal death but from untold trouble and pain in this life. Yet when we find ourselves in a slump, we struggle to see Him, and we feel like He was never there in the first place.

I think I understand why the Israelites needed the sacrifice. Without a constant reminder, man quickly forgets who he is - the very image of God.

But we have a gift. The very same Spirit who witnessed the formation of the earth - the One who saw us knit together in the womb - this Spirit has been given to us. He causes the wonders of the Lord to be remembered. He is worthy of all praise and honor. This, we mustn't forget.

Lord, I remember a ten-year old boy who, on this day in 1972, stepped into a pool of water to be baptized on a warm South Carolina evening. If he had know the pain that was coming, he would have been overwhelmed with fear. As a man, I look back, and although I see years of ridicule, of sadness, and of fear, I know You were there.

Why do I keep forgetting You, Lord?

Show me Your gracious compassion. Give me clarity of thought and understanding. Help me to remember how marvelous You are. Help me to remember Your works of yesterday, and help me to see them today.

April 27, 2005

Ash Heaps

He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap. Psalm 113:7

Have you ever lived through a house fire? Praise the Lord, I never have, but I've been around quite a few.

The first one I remember was the home of a close friend. It was an old house, the kind with a wrap-around porch in the South Carolina woods. Unfortunately, it was equipped with old room furnaces, and one night the worst happened. I will never forget my friend's tears. It didn't make sense to me. This was something I had never seen, and it was almost exciting. It took me some time to realize - she had lost absolutely everything. This large home was literally gone. Not a wall was left standing.

Later in life, I witnessed similar devastation time and time again. As a Red Cross disaster services director, I stood in many homes damaged by fire. Some families needed nothing more than a few pairs of clothes and some groceries. While others experienced the worst like I remember seeing as a child.

Interestingly, the house that reminded me most of my friend's house was owned by a local firefighter. An electrical fire in a country home on a very windy day quickly leveled the entire structure. It seemed the only thing left was a concrete slab covered in a heap of ashes. No furniture, very few appliances, no kitchen counters - the fire was so hot it literally took everything. Seeing this redefined by understanding of what it is to be needy.

Thankfully, God lifts us up when we are just that needy. When absolutely everything is lost, when our fears have become reality, He is there. Lord, reach out to me. Lift me up from the emotional ash heap in which I have so often found myself. I need You.

May 2, 2005

Proclaim It!

I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done. Psalm 118:17

Which will I choose? Death or life? Would anyone notice my choice?

Yesterday was a strange day. Everywhere I went, it felt like I was on the outside looking in. Like a ghost trapped on this side of death, I seemed to be wandering unseen among the living. Oh, there were a few who noticed me, so I must have been alive. Yet something was different? Why did I feel so invisible? Was it them? Or was it me?

I know the answer.

It was me.

Nothing anyone did made me disappear. I simply wasn't there. If I had been, others might have heard what the Lord is doing in my life. In recent months, He has done so much. But when faced with those I should have told, I froze. The words could not come out of my mouth because... in truth, I don't know if I believe it. How can I proclaim life, when I don't believe I am alive?

Someone close to me recently expressed concern that I would eventually leave - not physically but emotionally. Is this concern valid? From past experience, I would say it is. But the past is gone. The dead man I once was is no longer.

I need to start proclaiming the truth: I am alive. Only by the grace of God - I am alive!

Lord, forgive my unbelief. Forgive my silence. Help me to proclaim the work You have accomplished in me. Help me to believe it is real.

Bring me back to life.

May 20, 2005

Boundless

To all perfection I see a limit; but your commands are boundless. Psalm 119:96

I believe in the inerrant Word of God - that every bit of Scripture is God-breathed. But this doesn't make sense. The psalmist says God's commands are "boundless." In the same sentence he states that perfection has limits. Aren't God's commands perfect? Don't they provide the boundaries within which we should live? What can it mean that God's commands are boundless?

To me, perfection is a target - a goal - the ultimate end. (And being a self-proclaimed perfectionist, only I know what it looks like.) It is something that, theoretically, can be reached. (Okay, I admit we are human, and it may not really be possible. But unfortunately, I keep trying to reach it.) To say that something is boundless, however, doesn't necessarily mean that boundaries do no exist. It may simply mean we can never reach those boundaries.

In essence, the psalmist seems to be saying perfection is a destination, and God's commands are the journey. We can never reach the edge. He is limitless. His truth is limitless. No matter how much we grow, there will always be room for more growth.

Lord, I acknowledge that too often I set the boundaries. My perfectionist's views and opinions seem to get in the way. Help me to understand that Your way is always greater than anything I could imagine. Help me to strive for Your limitless perfection. Help me to walk the journey hand-in-hand with Your Spirit. Come, Lord Jesus.

May 21, 2005

The Wrong Path

I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path. Psalm 119:104

There are few things worse than realizing you have taken the wrong path. All of a sudden the scenery might not look familiar. The signs along the way might display the distance to cities you don't recognize. Before long, a choice must be made. Do you keep going in hopes of finding someone who can give you directions to where you were going? Or do you turn back to hopefully discover where you missed the right exit?

Lord, for someone who doesn't like to go the wrong way, I sure do it a lot. Help me to trust the road map of Your Word. Help me to see the signs for the correct exits along the way. Help me to arrive where You intended. Thank You for Your unfailing love.

May 31, 2005

It's Time to Surrender

Have you ever thought the great men of the Bible were nothing like us? Today, I think I understand them a little better.

Whenever a man heard God speak, what was his reaction? Did he jump for joy, full of excitement that the God of the universe had chosen to speak to him? If you study the Word closely enough, one thing stands out as a common reaction when God speaks.

Fear.

For a very long time, people have told me that God is calling me to something. My greatest challenge is: I can't see what everyone else seems to see. All I see is a man who continually struggles with his self-worth, a man who is obsessed with the opinions of others, a man who fails more than he succeeds - and I succeed quite a bit.

I may not be able to see very clearly, but this morning... I heard. Four words. "It's time to surrender." I heard them while listening to a friend affirm me by sharing a vision of God's plan for my future. Immediately after God spoke, I knew it was real. My reaction wasn't joy. It wasn't excitement that God had finally spoken. All I felt was... fear.

I'm amazed at what I said after that. Trying to explain what I had just heard, the words that came from my mouth were not mine. "In order for me to be fully in the Lord's will, it requires for me to surrender - not to achieve." What difficult words for a self-acclaimed perfectionist to hear!

Lord, continue to bring clarity to my understanding. Brave men are not fearless. They are willing to give everything they have. Help me to give it all. Help me to surrender.

June 9, 2005

Ask the Builder

Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain... Psalm 127:1a

Nothing built by human hands will last. Only what the Lord builds can live beyond the limits of time.

So why do we spend so much time and effort trying to fix ourselves?

I believe God wants us to seek holiness, but all our efforts to attain righteousness won't build anything that we can carry with us into eternity. The only things we can bring into heaven are those which were built into us by the Holy Spirit. He does the work! He's waiting for us to ask Him. He won't intrude, and He will never deny.

Father, will You build into me eternal character that I can carry into heaven - that I can carry today? Thank You for making me the man I am.

June 19, 2005

Demanded Songs

For there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!" Psalm 137:3

How are we ever fooled into believing the enemy? With his words he convinces us that no one can love us like he does. We buy what he has said since that awful day in the garden so long ago: "Try it; you'll like it! You, too, can be like God."

But in truth, we are nothing more than monkeys in a cage to him. Like slaves, he drives us during the day and expects songs of joy at night. Oh, there are pleasures. He knows that too many would escape if they knew the truth about him. He knows that if we saw him as he really is, he would lose us to the Emancipator. So he carries on the masquerade. He enters our days dressed in light, hiding the darkness underneath, and we too often accept his offer to dance.

Lord, protect me from the lies of the enemy. His aim is to enslave me. Yours is to save me. Through the sacrifice of Your Son, You have clothed me in righteousness. No longer do I want to dance and sing by the waters of foreign lands. You are my only hope. Free me, now and forevermore

June 24, 2005

How Sweet It Is

Let not the heart be drawn to what is evil, to take part in wicked deeds with men who are evildoers; let me not eat of their delicacies. Psalm 141:4

The taste of evil... What is it like?

When I consider this question, my first thought is how horrible it must be. Think of it. The picture I have of evil comes from movies and books, a deformed monster covered in slime and smelling of sulfur. How many hunters would chase after this prize to feed his family and friends? Who in his right mind would consider something a delicacy if it smelled of rotten eggs?!

The truth is: evil is the sweetest of delicacies. Once a man acquires a taste for it, he will be drawn to it like a moth to a flame. And like the moth, one taste could be enough to kill him.

Lord, sometimes I long for the delicacies of my past. Too often I forget the months and years of pain caused by its poison. All I seem to remember is how sweet it was at first. The very thought of its taste awakens cravings I can no longer afford to fulfill, for nothing that fills me momentarily is worth the cost of my life. Help me to see evil as it truly is. Help me to acquire a taste for righteousness. The food from Your table is the sweetest of all.

June 30, 2005

How to Impress Him

His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love. Psalm 147:10-11

The measure of a man's success is not in the races he wins but in the character he displays; God knows this. He isn't impressed by anything we can accomplish. No feat of strength, no amount of speed can catch His eye like the heart of a man focused on Him. He finds such delight in the things man so often disregards.

Lord, I have wasted so much of myself worrying about worldly things, and none of them bring You delight like the hope I place in You. I spend far too much time focused on the negative side of life. Help me to see the good You pour on Your children. Help me to see the blessings in life so other might see them as well. Thank You for Your unfailing love.

July 2, 2005

The Power of Words

For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation. Psalm 149:4

The other day, I saw a rerun of Oprah that featured contemporary playwright, Tyler Perry. He said something I hope I never forget: "A positive word is always more powerful than a negative word." There is great power in words. Unfortunately, I have never understood this well.

Take the word "delight." For me, the mere sound of it - not just in my head, but out loud, seems to warm my spirit. It may seem a little odd, but that's what it does for me. Hearing it spoken doesn't cause me to grin, but in some strange way, my heart smiles.

Oh, how I wish I could have grasped this years ago. There are far too many negative words in my vocabulary. My son could probably attest to this. When a man struggles with his self-esteem, when he struggles with the way he sees himself, and he sees too much of himself in another, his words to that person tend to reflect it. They are negative much of the time. My wife asked me the other day what it is that makes me so angry with my son. Despite the fact that he is twenty, and God seems to have set a timer in every father's heart that signifies the time to push his young from the nest, I believe I see too much of myself in him. Sadly, my harsh words aren't meant for him; they are meant for me. Father, forgive me. Help me to change this. Help me to speak words of love to my son more often.

Lord, I believe the sound of Your children's voices - even the mere mention of their names - makes Your heart smile. You find such delight in those who love You. Help me to change my words. Help me to take delight in my children. Help me to take delight in life. How great Your blessings are to us!

July 15, 2005

Tugging Strings

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 1 John 5:14

Sometimes, I have a distorted view of God - a distorted view of myself. He is not a puppet who responds to the tug of a string as some would like to believe.

The Apostle John stated that we can have anything for which we ask. Doesn't this seem to make me the one in charge? Like I can control my destiny by simply asking for it? By tugging a string?

There is a key to getting the things I want. Four simple words: "according to His will." His will is what I must understand.

Father, I don't even know what to want. Do I really know Your will? The only way I can know it is if You reveal it to me. Give me eyes to see. Help me to walk in a supernatural confidence. Help me to know Your plan, so I can ask and receive.

Spirit, will you take charge today?

July 22, 2005

God's Choice

That day the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they revered him all the days of his life, just as they had revered Moses. Joshua 4:14

It isn't easy to step into someone else's shoes.

Moses led the people through some very troubling times, yet despite their grumbling, the Israelites knew he was the leader of God's choice. For Joshua to take the reins, it would require something pretty dramatic - almost as dramatic as crossing the Red Sea.

And that's what God did.

God again held back raging waters and dried up the land for the people, allowing them safe passage. Keeping His promise to Joshua, the people would never question God's choice.

Lord, I want to be a man of Your choice. When the day comes for me to lead, help me to trust that You will do whatever is necessary to establish my position in the Body. Prepare me - just as You prepared Joshua. Teach me Your ways, so others might follow.

July 23, 2005

First Person?

Now when all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings along the coast heard how the Lord had dried up the Jordan before the Israelites until we had crossed over, their hearts melted and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites. Joshua 5:1

The Bible is fascinating. There is no other book like it. This amazing collection of books written over the span of so many years is the inspired Word of God. Although many different men put pen to paper, the Spirit guided each and every stroke. Knowing this, I am stuck this morning on one word.

So far in the Book of Joshua, the writer has shared an amazing account of how God paved the way for the Israelites to enter the promised land. The story has been told in the third person - by someone reflecting upon the experiences of someone else.

All of a sudden, one word is used that changes the story. It is the word "we."

"Until we had crossed over..."

The author used a first person pronoun. Later in the chapter, he writes, "For the Lord had sworn to them that they would not see the land that he had solemnly promised their fathers to give us..." There! He did it again.

"We" and "us" both indicate the author is in the story. He must be experiencing what is being read.

Lord, You Word is such a gift. Where else can one find a first hand account of history? I'm not quite sure what You want me to learn from the Word today, but this I know: it is real. These are not fairly tales. Thank You for the reminder. Help me to continue on this journey with courage - knowing that the God who melted the hearts of Joshua's enemies will melt the hearts of mine when the time comes for me to seize Your promise. Thank You for giving me eyes to see what is written between the lines. Thank You for living with me beneath the surface.

July 27, 2005

To Pick and Choose

Afterward, Joshua read all the words of the law - the blessings and the curses - just as it is written in the Book of the Law. Joshua 8:34

The Word of God is sometimes difficult to accept, for it contains both blessings and curses. We cannot pick and choose. If God says something is wrong, it is wrong, regardless of the societal norm. Too many in the church today seem to water down the Word. They try to make right what God said is not.

At the same time, there are many who water down the Gospel of Christ. He came to save the lost. His grace covers all who will receive it - even those who accept the norms of society.

A few weeks ago, I went with my wife and daughter to our local 4th of July parade. There were floats from various organizations, businesses, and churches. The crowd cheered as groups scurried past. It was like any other celebration - vibrant and exciting.

Interestingly, when one float passed by, there was an odd hush that washed over the crowd enjoying the festivities. A nicely decorated trailer rolled down the street with a big sign on the front displaying a name: Metropolitan Community Church. Several young ladies ran through the crowd passing out tracks to share what they believed. Those on the float carried signs with phrases like "Child of God" and "Gay Christian." This was one of those awkward "in your face" moments when those who accept the gay lifestyle demand to be noticed.

But it raises a question.

Can a Christian be gay?

My response is another question. Can a Christian be a sinner? Every sinner deserves hell, regardless of the sin. Can we pick and choose who receives God's grace?

Lord, help me to stand up for what is right without disregarding Your grace. Thank You for dying so all might live. If Your grace cannot cover the sins of the MCC, I would be lost. Give me a heart that loves sinners.

Help me to not pick and choose.

August 3, 2005

There is so much to be done!

When Joshua was old and well advanced in years, the Lord said to him, "You are very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken." Joshua 13:1

I've been told many times to live in such a way that I will have no regrets. None of us want to reach the end of life and realize how much we missed.

Joshua must have experienced some regret. He had much to celebrate about his life. Yet the Lord reminded him of the land not yet subdued. There were large regions where the Israelites had not yet taken the land - places that interestingly are still a source of contention in Israel today.

Unfortunately, I believe regardless of how we live our lives, there will still be work undone. There will still be unsettled conflicts, uncaptured dreams, and promises yet to be fulfilled.

Lord, I know I am finite. I will never achieve everything I would like in this lifetime. I also realize I shouldn't live life worrying about what I will miss because I won't enjoy the blessings You give. Help me to do what I can to further Your kingdom Help me to be content with You wonder blessing. Continue to work though me as You choose. There is so much to be done!

August 5, 2005

The Impact of Faith

Judah could not dislodge the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the people of Judah. Joshua 15:63

By the time the book of Joshua was written, Israel was pretty established in the promised land. There were areas that had not been subdued, but much of the land had been taken and the people destroyed.

It's interesting to me that the Jebusites remained in Jerusalem. There is something very unique about Jerusalem. God chose Jerusalem out of all the cities in the land to place His temple. To this day, it is a blessed city. Why is it that God had not driven out the Jebusites, so His chosen people could freely occupy His chosen city?

I wonder if there were some in Jerusalem who still worshipped the Lord God? There are no stories in the Bible to indicate this, but Jerusalem had a heritage of worship. Melchizedek was the king of Jerusalem who gave provision to Abraham after Abraham's chase to rescue his nephew Lot. Not only was Melchizedek the king, he was a priest of the Most High God. Jesus Himself has been called a priest in the order of Melchizedek. Jerusalem's history indicates that the people had worshipped the Lord God. Maybe some remained. Maybe God spared them like he had promised Abraham in regards to Sodom - that if He found ten who worshipped Him, the city would not be destroyed.

We never know the impact of our faith sometimes. Someday, I will ask why He spared the Jebusites. Until then, it's an important lesson to consider.

Lord, give me a faith that could save an entire city. If You came looking for ten who follow You, let me be among them. I love You, Father. Your grace amazes me.

August 15, 2005

The Real Promise Keeper

Not one of all the Lord's good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled. Joshua 21:45

God doesn't break His promises.

Oh, life won't be perfect; He never promised that. But there isn't anything He says that will not come to pass.

I'm a little torn this morning. There are a few things as wonderful for a parent than to see your child step into the Father's will. But it doesn't make it easy.

Today, we are taking a trip with excitement.

Tomorrow, we will make the same journey in sadness.

My daughter, who has grown up far too quickly, will be moving into a college dormitory in the morning. How can I leave her in another city? This beautiful young woman will no longer awaken in my house each and every day. She will be at a wonderful school charting the path the Lord has made for her, but she won't be here.

Help me, Father, to trust. I know You have big plans for this woman who was raised in my home. Take care of her. Promise me that You will hold her close to Your breast - for You fulfill every promise. Protect my baby girl.

August 21, 2005

Be Careful to Love

"The Lord has driven out before you great and powerful nations; to this day no one has been able to withstand you. One of you routs a thousand, because the Lord your God fights for you, just as he promised. So be very careful to love the Lord your God." Joshua 23:9-11

Any success I may experience in life is a result of God's awesome power - not my own, for I am the weakest of men. With Him beside me, thousands will fall.

So why do I so easily bow down to idols of my own making? Why am I not more careful to love the Lord my God?

The gods I sometimes worship are not made of wood or stone, but they are just as real. Maybe it is affection or kind words that I depend upon to make me happy. What happens when they elude me? How is it that I can be on a mountain top when I have received attention from another, but the moment I feel ignored and alone, I find myself under the mountain rather than on it? Maybe it's because I get so focused on being loved that I forget to love in return. If I could be more careful to love, I might not feel so unloved at times.

Lord, I feel trapped in an endless cycle. Have I quit receiving love because I quit giving love? Or is it that I have quit giving love because I quit receiving it? (Which came first - the chicken or the egg? It doesn't matter! Either way, you end up with soup.) Help me to focus more on giving in spite of what I am receiving. Help me to love when I feel unloved.

Rout the enemies from the lands You have promised.

August 24, 2005

Empty Words

If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? James 2:16

Faith and deeds. What a sore subject.

I'm sure everyone can identify those times in life when their actions don't support their words. And what if the words are never spoken either? What does that say?

Faith is like love. Without something tangible, words are empty.

Lord, this passage makes me sad this morning. There are so many instances that have proven me to be a liar. Too often, I am mere words. And there are people in my life who say all the right things, but do nothing. Even worse are those who don't even speak but should. I have been orphaned - not by death, but by the absence of words and action.

You are a Father to orphans. Be mine today.

September 11, 2005

Hi, my name is...

He replied, "Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding." Judges 13:18

Have you ever noticed how we can have conversations with so many people and not even know their names? The next time you are on an airplane, listen. Two people may converse for over an hour, but it isn't until they are standing in the aisle preparing to leave that they introduce themselves. How many people do we speak with everyday whom we have never formally met? At the gym, at the store, at a neighborhood restaurant... There are so many faces we might know, but so few names.

Lord, I know Your name is beyond understanding. Father, Jesus, Spirit - these are the names I call You, but someday I want to hear what You call Yourself. Then I want to comprehend. Reveal Your name to me, so I might know You more. Spirit, give me ears that hear, eyes that see, and a heart that loves.

September 15, 2005

Image Management

And Micah said, "Now I know the Lord will be good to me, since the Levite has become my priest." Judges 17:13

Micah was all about image. He thought that having a Levite serve as a priest in his home would make him look good, and this would somehow make him acceptable to God. In truth, Micah was an idolater. Nothing he could do to look good would change that. God had made it clear in His first two commandments: Worship only the Lord your God, and make no idols of anything. No amount of goodness in Micah's house would make him acceptable, for God desired his devotion. Man looks at appearances; God looks at the heart.

I learned the fine art of image management when I was a young boy. It seems silly now, but I used to carry four Bibles to church. Each week, I would lug them around. Four translations. The King James, the New American Standard, the Living Bible, and a New Testament that compared four separate translations. With these in hand I was certain people would think, "My, he must be a good little boy. Look at all his Bibles!"

In truth, I rarely opened those Bibles during the week. I knew what I was doing. Maybe by looking good, it would somehow make me acceptable.

Lord, I'm tired of merely looking good. I long to be acceptable because of who I really am - not some image I try to portray. Change my heart. Only You can see what is really there. Make me a man who worships only You and makes idols of nothing. Holy Spirit, be my father and priest. With You as my Guide, I know the Lord will be good to me. Make me acceptable in the Father's sight.

October 1, 2005

God is Watching Us

The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening." 1 Samuel 3:10

I have always loved the story of how God called Samuel in the middle of the night. It is a story I can remember reading as a boy hoping He would call me too. As a boy, I imagined hearing God's voice. I couldn't tell you how many times I have read this story.

How could I miss the most important detail?

In my mind, I have always pictured God calling down to Samuel. There he was, a young boy sleeping in the room with the ark of the covenant, and God's voice can be heard from above calling to him: "Samuel! Samuel!" But the picture I have in my mind is wrong. God was not some amazing voice that strangely came from the ceiling.

The detail I have missed so many times is this: "The Lord came and stood there." God was not some mystical voice. He was standing there in the room, calling out to Samuel.

How many times, Lord, have You stood at the foot of my bed calling out my name? You are not some distant entity who calls to Your children from afar. It excites me and terrifies me to consider how many times You have stood watching me sleep. Give me ears to hear You. Give me the courage to say, "Speak, for Your servant is listening."

October 13, 2005

Put Away?

So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashteroths, and served the Lord only. 1 Samuel 7:4

Israel had finally grown weary. The people decided that seeking after the Lord was better than living as each one saw fit. Samuel challenged the people to rid themselves of the foreign gods they had worshipped for so long; the people turned back to God and served Him only.

Interestingly, this passage does not say the people destroyed the foreign gods. It merely says they "put away their Baals and Ashteroths."

Now, wait a minute.

"Put away"?

When I hear these words, my mind thinks of putting something in its proper storage place. Why didn't the writer say they "rid themselves of" or they "destroyed" the Baals and Ashteroths? To simply say they "put away" these things tells me that these gods were tucked away in some closet somewhere. To serve God only, aren't we supposed to purge the sinful things that we worship?

This raises an interesting question. Should an idol be destroyed, or can it merely be put away? Inanimate objects are not inherently evil. The only thing that makes them sinful is the value we place upon them. An individual may spend all his time worshipping a television set; does it mean he should remove it from his house altogether? Can a person who worships food stop eating? Should a person who struggles with sex become a celibate? God doesn't usually call us to ascetic lives. He calls us to follow Him - to place our highest value on our relationship with His Son.

Jesus, help me to put away the things that keep me from You. Some things should be destroyed. Some things can be put in their proper place. Help me to serve You only. Be real to me today.

October 25, 2005

I Could Never Afford It

They repeated these words to David. But David said, "Do you think it is a small matter to become the king's son-in-law? I'm only a poor man and little known." 1 Samuel 18:23

David was an amazingly talented, gifted, and well-known young man, yet he didn't seem to see it. Saul wanted David as his son-in-law. Of course, it was for the wrong reasons. Saul believed that the Philistines would try all the more to kill David if he was the son-in-law of the king. But David denied his fame. He denied his successes, and he seemed to focus only on what he lacked - money. How could he afford the price of the king's daughter?

It wasn't until Saul named the price, the foreskins of one hundred Philistines, that David felt he could pay what it would take. Battles, he understood. He had seen God provide the strength to slay tens of thousands. Why didn't he trust God would pay the price for the king's daughter, regardless of the cost?

Lord, like David, I know that I deny the man I am because of the things I lack. You have given me so much, yet I seem to lack the faith that You will pay the price. Help me to receive the position You bestow upon me. Give me the eloquence that is worthy of a son of the King.

November 5, 2005

Act When You Feel the Nudge

Then David said to Abiathar: "That day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, I knew he would be sure to tell Saul. I am responsible for the death of your father's whole family." 1 Samuel 22:22

David was filled with the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit in Him is the Spirit who lives in those who have trusted in Jesus for salvation. Sometimes, the Spirit gives insight into what will happen. The question is: What will we do with this information?

David knew that Doeg the Edomite saw him at Nob. He also knew that Doeg was allied with Saul. My guess is that the Spirit probably tried to warn David about what could happen to Ahimelech the priest and his family. Yet like we sometimes do, he might have brushed the thought aside. Surely, Saul wouldn't consider harming the priests of the Lord, would he?

The momentary concern David felt eventually became reality. Just as he might have feared, Doeg told Saul of Ahimelech's aid to David, and Saul ordered the death of Ahimelech and his father's entire family. What might have happened if David had followed his instinct? Ahimelech and his family could have fled with David. Unfortunately, David carried the blame. In truth, the guilt was Saul's. David was not responsible.

There are times that I feel a nudge from the Spirit and I need to act upon it. Not long ago, a friend introduced me to his pastor. When I met him, I sensed an uneasiness behind his smile. I felt the loneliness that he was expertly hiding. As I had done so many times before, I disregarded these instincts. If no one else could sense these things, maybe they weren't real.

In a matter of months, the truth was revealed. This man had developed an inappropriate emotional connection with a woman he counseled, and now his wife has given up on trying to make the marriage work. Five children are living in the rubble of a broken home.

Was it my responsibility? Could I have changed the outcome? This home was already crumbling; I couldn't have stopped it. But could I have sounded an alarm?

Lord, help me to clearly understand Your leadings. Give me the wisdom and the courage to address them. Too many times I have asked myself, "Did I really feel that?" Give me eyes to see and ears to hear.

November 10, 2005

Letting God Take Care of It

When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, "Praise be to the Lord, who has upheld my cause against Nabal for treating me with contempt. He has kept his servant from doing wrong and has brought Nabal's wrong-doing on his own head." 1 Samuel 25:39

David was ticked! Nabal had treated him with contempt. David's efforts to protect the belongings of a complete stranger were met with insults. In truth, Nabal was greedy; he didn't want to give anything away to anyone. But David is not blameless in this instance. David was prideful. His intentions were for revenge. All of Nabal's servants, men who spoke highly of David, would have been killed had it not been for the quick thinking of Abigail.

So, this man after God's own heart struggled with pride! He had little patience for the contempt of others. Maybe I'm not so unlike David after all.

Lord, thank You for sharing the truth about David in Your Word. He was just as human as I, and You still loved him. Keep me from foolish actions. Help me to express my anger in appropriate ways, so You might be glorified. Give me the wisdom to let You fight the battles for me.

November 11, 2005

A Core Belief

So David took the spear and water jug near Saul's head, and they left. No one saw or knew about it, nor did anyone wake up. They were all sleeping because the Lord had put them into a deep sleep. 1 Samuel 26:12

Saul was delivered into David's hand, not once but twice. Both times, David could have used the opportunity for his own advantage. He could have taken the kingdom. He could have captured the throne that was rightfully his.

But David interpreted every circumstance in the light of his core belief that no one should lay hands on the Lord's anointed. If he didn't possess this core belief, David could have easily taken charge of his own destiny rather than allowing God to guide it.

Lord, I seem to be working in a place that has either forgotten or has never identified its core belief. We go from day to day making decisions based on circumstance. Without a core value, we will never succeed. Give me the courage and the opportunity to speak the truth. Show us what should be at the center, and help us to never act contrary to our heart.

November 12, 2005

More Alike than I Care to Admit

Whenever David attacked an area, he did not leave a man or woman alive, but took sheep and cattle, donkeys and camels, and clothes. Then he returned to Achish. 1 Samuel 27:9

Somehow, I have always pictured David as a wonderfully pleasant man. He wrote songs and poetry. He played the harp. He was known as a man after God's own heart.

In reality, he was far from pleasant. Just ask the Geshurites, the Girizites, and the Amalekites in the areas near Gath... Oh. You can't - because they are dead.

David killed them all!

Lord, for most of my life I have strived to be like David, a man after Your heart. In my mind, I have put him on such a high pedestal, and when I fall short of the impossible standard I have set, I tend to punish myself. How wrong I have been! I am more like David because of my failures - not in spite of them. Jesus is the only perfect man to walk the earth. Forgive me for wallowing in the pain of failure. No matter how deserved I think it may be, punishing myself for forgiven sin shows great disregard for Your sacrifice. Your grace is sufficient - even for the likes of David - even for the likes of me.

November 15, 2005

Trust Him with the Choice

So Achish called David and said to him, "As surely as the Lord lives, you have been reliable, and I would be pleased to have you serve with me in the army. From the day you came to me until now, I have found no fault in you, but the rulers don't approve of you. Turn back and go in peace; do nothing to displease the Philistine rulers." 1 Samuel 29:6-7

David could be pretty sly.

When threatened by Saul, he struck a deal with Achish, one of his enemies; essentially he hid in plain sight, for Saul would not chase David while he was living among the Philistines. Then keeping up a charade, he and his men raided other enemies nearby claiming they were attacking Israelite cities. This helped David maintain an image - that he could be trusted.

All along, David's allegiance had not changed. Despite Saul's contempt, David loved him and honored him as God's anointed king. The very people he claimed to have been raiding were his people. Someday they would be citizens of David's kingdom, living under his protection. How could he do anything to cause them harm? What could he do if Achish asked him to fight alongside him against the Israelites? He would be forced to make a choice - to keep up the charade or to fight against his own people.

Although Scripture doesn't record the conversation, I'm sure David asked the Lord for help when that day came. Achish expected David to fight with him when the Philistines gathered for battle. Now, what could David do? Obviously, he did what he should have done. He trusted, and God took care of it. The other Philistine rulers would have nothing to do with David, and they refused to let him join the battle. David didn't have to choose. The Lord had chosen for him.

Lord, there are times that I should merely trust You. Could I be as strong as David - to suit up for battle, not knowing if I will be forced to choose between good and bad? Help me to trust that You know what You are doing every single day.

November 27, 2005

Which King Did You Follow?

So Saul and his three sons and his armor-bearer and all his men died together that same day. 1 Samuel 31:6

The day had come for the end of Saul's reign. On that day, every hope that his men had placed in him was dashed. There would be no future kingdom for his sons; they were dead. There would be no place for those who fought so valiantly for so long.

I wonder what it was like to get to the end of their lives only to realize they had been following the wrong king. God had chosen another. Yet, either out of loyalty or greed, they stayed. His men chose to fight for a kingdom that was disappearing before their very eyes.

Lord, I am so grateful that I won't get to the end only to realize I followed the wrong Leader. Your Son's reign will not end in some fierce battle. The archers cannot overtake Him. The enemy has already lost. Help me to remember that. He can never press in so hard that my eternal future will not be realized.

Come, Lord Jesus. Save us from the arrows of the enemy.

November 29, 2005

Knowing When to Quit

Abner called out to Joab, "Must the sword devour forever? Don't you realize that this will end in bitterness? How long before you order your men to stop pursuing their brothers?" 2 Samuel 2:26

There comes a point in every battle when the questions are raised: "Is it worth it to continue? Will this only end in bitterness?" If continuing a pursuit will end in bitterness, why would we choose it? But if continuing will result in unity and strength, quitting isn't an option.

Some of the best advice a parent can hear is to pick your battles. However, just as important is to understand when it is time to say, "Okay! This has gone on long enough, and neither will benefit if it continues."

Lord, there are battles in life that I'm tired of fighting. Yet I know they must be continued. If the enemy is allowed to occupy certain places within me, there is no hope for seeing Your kingdom established. But if I am seeking to win for my own prideful gain, help me to put a stop to the pursuit. Help me to know the difference.

December 22, 2005

Mere Furniture

When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. 2 Samuel 6:6

Uzzah's death is somewhat perplexing. Why would God strike him dead for reaching out his hand to keep the ark of the covenant from falling to the ground? Would it be more reverent to witness the ark as it smashed to bits?

The ark of the covenant had been in the home of Uzzah's father for nearly a century. He had to knew better. No one was to touch it!. God sees the heart; He knew Uzzah's thoughts. Could it be that Uzzah had grown to see the ark as a mere piece of furniture in his father's household?

More perplexing than Uzzah's death is something that isn't as obvious at first glance: Why was the ark being moved on a new cart drawn by oxen? The is the manner in which the Philistines sent it back to Israel. Is this how the Israelites should treat it?

The ark was designed to be carried by the priests. Every time it went before the nation of Israel - either through the desert, across the Jordan River, or into some great battle - the ark was carried. Why now had David decided to move the ark as one would move a piece of furniture?

David was angered by Uzzah's death. Then he grew afraid. I wonder if he came to realize his part in this untimely incident. Obviously, he learned something from this. When he commanded that the ark be moved again on the final leg of its journey to Jerusalem, it was carried by men - not by oxen.

Lord, help me to always show proper reverence for the articles of Your temple. Today, You dwell within the hearts of men. The articles of worship are our very bodies. Do I take care of myself as I should? Do I honor others? We are more than mere furniture! Teach me Your ways, so I might follow.

January 18, 2006

Self Worship

While Absalom was offering sacrifices, he also sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David's counselor to come from Giloh, his hometown. And so the conspiracy gained strength, and Absalom's following kept on increasing. 2 Samuel 15:12

It amazes me that Absalom could be so bold as to use worship of God as a cover for his conspiracy to steal the throne from his father.

Oh, he did all the right things. He said all the right things. All appearances would indicate that Absalom cared about Israel and her people. The truth was that everything he did had an ulterior motive. Everything he did was intended to honor only one person, himself.

Lord, there are many who use You as a cover for their schemes. There are churches filled with people who are only there seeking social status. Their worship, in truth, is for themselves. Help me to always seek You. Help me to live an authentic life that brings honor to You alone. Let my words and actions draw others to You.

January 26, 2006

Putting Your House in Order

When Ahithophel saw that his advice had not been followed, he saddled his donkey and set out for his hometown. He put his house in order and then hanged himself. So he died and was buried in his father's tomb. 2 Samuel 17:23

Ahithophel was known as a wise man, an advisor to the king. Yet even the wisest among us can be revealed as a fool.

The choices Ahithophel made proved that he wasn't as wise as his reputation would suggest. He abandoned his post in King David's court to support Absalom in an attempt to take the throne. And at the first sign of Absalom's displeasure with his advice, Ahithophel went home and killed himself.

To be honest, the scene is pretty silly. Ahithophel traveled home, put his house in order, then hanged himself. Why does someone put his house in order before ending his life? Is he worried about what others might think of him? I think his final choice outweighs any other thought!

Interestingly, suicide has been on my mind a lot lately. A friend revealed to me a few days ago that he recently attempted to take his life - that he had put a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. Thankfully, in his altered state of mind, he forgot to take the safety off the gun. Before doing this, he took every step to put things in order - to ensure his death wouldn't be burdensome. But a tarp on the garage floor would never protect anyone from the mess he would have made of our hearts. Since then, he seems to be making wise choices. He is doing what he must to put his life in order - to heal from the pain that drove him to the edge. The whole incident has taught me something - that one's life is often judged by how it ends.

Lord, You know how much I have struggled in this life with thoughts of going over that edge. Yet something has happened. I can barely comprehend what matters enough to ever get to that point. I once understood the pain, but it seems so foreign now. Life is so much brighter than I realized. Help me to walk in this newness. Thank You for protecting my friend from himself. Thank You for giving me the strength to discount human opinion. Thank You for putting my house in order.

January 27, 2006

Rebellion

The battle spread out over the whole countryside, and the forest claimed more lives that day than the sword. 2 Samuel 18:8

There was a great rebellion in Israel. Absalom made it clear that he planned to take the throne. Many followed him. David fled. Yet in the end, God's will was accomplished. Absalom died, and David mourned.

The battle for Israel was fierce. David's men defeated the army they had previously served. Twenty thousand men died.

Interestingly, more of these men died at God's hand than at the hand of David's men. The forest claimed more lives than the sword. Absalom himself might have died alone, hanging in a tree, had Joab not intervened.

God doesn't take lightly those who rebel against His anointed leaders. Absalom's rebellion did not go unnoticed.

Lord, help me to always be on Your side. Help me to never be swayed from following those You have chosen. I long to be in Your will - no matter where that takes me. Keep me from the darkness of the forest.

February 12, 2006

Failing Crops

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. Habakkuk 3:17-18

Lately, I've felt overrun by an enemy. Busyness, fatigue, lack of motivation - all these things seem to be getting in my way. The Word has seemed like mere words on a page. It feels like my crops are failing; my inspiration has waned. Every day is met with more to be accomplished, and I lack the desire to accomplish it.

Why is it so difficult to find the Living Water these days? Like West Texas, I feel I have dried up. How many months can we go with virtually no rain?

Lord, no matter how dry I might feel, I will choose to praise You today. Every fiber of my being wants to flee. I want to run to where I can find something to drink. Help me to wait for Your refreshing rain. Make me holy as You are holy. I feel alone. Where are You?

February 20, 2006

Overflow

"The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks." Luke 6:45

What kind of story do you have?

Do you struggle to find the words?

I do.

Maybe I'm trying too hard. Maybe I'm looking in the wrong places to discover it. Too often I consider the audience when I think of sharing my story. I think about what it is that they need to hear, rather than simply saying what I need to say.

"For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks."

If I don't know what to say, maybe I haven't stored up enough in my heart. Maybe I'm too worried that the truth will come out - that there isn't much to tell.

Lord, I feel so caught up in the circumstance of my life. I seem to be bouncing about - tossed by the waves, rather than steering a course You have plotted. Help me to store good things in my heart. Let my life story overflow from Your goodness. Be my constant Guide in the storms.

March 12, 2006

The Greatest Joy

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. Ephesians 1:17

Sometimes, I am guilty of trying to use the Spirit for my own purposes. When I feel in way over my head - when I don't think I can accomplish the tasks before me, my most common prayer (and likely the shortest of all) is: "Help!"

Oh, the Spirit takes great joy in helping the saints. He is all about bringing strength for weakness, wisdom for ignorance, and peace for fear. But the greatest joy He gets is helping us to know the Father. Besides redemption, the greatest gift Jesus gave us was a glimpse of the Father. Living a life in the Father's presence, we are enveloped in His light. All the things of this world with which we struggle are nothing when we truly know Him.

Father, I have been walking through my days wondering where I am going. All I want is to be with You. Spirit, help me to know the Father better than I do. Thank You for Your wonderful provision. I love you, Lord.

March 31, 2006

Ridiculous Expectations

Do not be deceived. God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Galatians 6:7-8

Would a farmer plant soy beans and expect to harvest corn?

How ridiculous is that?!

So why do we expect that we can plant seeds of evil, yet reap good results? If I spend all my time focused on worldly things, how can I expect the Holy Spirit to guide my every step?

Lord, thank You for being patient with me. For the past few months I've been so caught up in the demands of life that I haven't been sowing as I should. It's not that I am planting wrong seeds. Sometimes, I'm just not planting at all. Help me to sow for Your pleasure. Help me to tend the fields, then let's enjoy the harvest together.

April 13, 2006

Those Who Will Inherit Salvation

Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation. Hebrews 1:14

Can we even begin to preceive God's amazing love for us? We are the crown of His creation. Even the angels, whom we see as awesome creatures, are sent to serve us. We will inherit salvation from the very One who inherited the Name of God. His own Son died so we could live.

Why do we discount God's choice to love us?

Lord, forgive me for dishonoring Your love for me. I have always had a low opinion of myself. No matter what anyone says about my gifts and talents, it still isn't enough. Who am I hoping to please? Is there anyone whose opinion matters as much as You? And You prove Yourself daily! Help me to be diligent in my spiritual growth again. Help me to become the man You designed. The world will be impacted if I am in Your hands. Hold me close to Your breast. I long to feel Your presence.

May 20, 2006

He Remembers!

...so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time; not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. Hebrews 9:28

Waiting for someone can sometimes be difficult. Will he remember me when he finds me?

For someone who seems to command such a great deal of attention, or so I have been told, I so easily feel forgotten. My whole life, I have lived in fear of being forgotten - of disappearing - of living a life no one would remember. At my very core, I am afraid of being inconsequential, of being unimportant, of having no impact on those around me.

Three years ago, I met a little boy who brightened my soul at a time I needed it most. I met him a month after the darkest valley of my life. He was only two, but he made me feel quite significant. He attached himself to me. He looked for me - asked where I was whenever we were apart.

I will never forget the power of his words upon finding me one afternoon. "There you are! I've found you!" Those simple words were a gift to a man who felt completely lost and forgotten.

Well, this weekend I had the opportunity to see this young boy once again. To expect a five-year old to remember you from three years ago is unreasonable, so I wasn't disappointed when he didn't proclaim, "Hey! I remember you."

But this morning, I recalled: he didn't know me by my name. His uncle and I share the same name, so I had a nickname. I ran into him as he went with his father and brother to breakfast. When I asked if he remembered Timbo, his eyes brightened a little; he turned to his brother and quietly said, "He's the guy who plays the flute."

He remembers me!

Lord, I am waiting for the day of Your return. I am waiting to hear Your voice proclaim, "There you are! I've found you!" Thank You for helping me see that I will never be forgotten - that I am not inconsequential. Help me to live a life of great impact. May others find You because of the Light that shines in me.

May 30, 2006

Bitter Roots

See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. Hebrews 12:15

Bitter roots... How do we remove them without damaging the good roots? How do we encourage the growth of new roots once the bitter have been removed?

Lord, there are many bitter roots that were allowed to grow in my family. It's interesting that bitter roots were planted by my grandfather in the heart of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl - a time when nothing would grow. Yet, they grew and became a heritage for the next generation. These very roots were intertwined with the good in me, but by Your grace, they have been cut out.

Even so, I feel a little lost.

Help me, Father. I feel like an uprooted tree. If the good roots are not replanted, I fear I will wither away. You have been so real to me. I know You haven't moved, yet I lack the clarity to see You - to feel You - to know Your very heart. Help me to experience Your grace. Help me to share it, so none will miss it.

July 2, 2006

Stand Up in Front!

Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, "Stand up in front of everyone." Mark 3:2-3

The church leaders took great care to scrutinize every move Jesus made. It was their hope that they could find some small infraction in order to disrupt His work. They obviously majored in the minors! So much effort was placed on little things - nitpicky details that could destroy Jesus. It's sad to think that the religious community was so caught up in the details that they missed the Truth staring them in the face.

Jesus was not afraid of the details. I can almost imagine Him walking by the lead instigator and whispering, "Just watch this!" Before the leaders knew it, Jesus stood the man in the front of the entire group and healed him. It was as if He said, "Hey! You don't need to scrutinize every move I make. When I am doing My Father's work, you will know it!"

So why do we hide the Father's greatest healing work from public view? Ministries to those strugging with sin are hidden away in the basements of so many churches. Alcoholics, drug addicts, adulterers, and homosexuals are all relegated to the secret places in the church - far from the eyes of the "good" Christians - far from the eyes of those who need to see them the most. When are we going to wake up to the truth: Jesus came for every sinner, not just those who fit our preconceived ideas of who is worth saving.

What would Jesus do in the church today if a gay man came to Him for help? My guess is that He would stand him in front of the church, embrace him, and heal his wounded heart.

Lord, I don't know what You have in mind. How can the Truth be revealed to a body that is trapped by details? Give us compassion for the lost. Give us compassion for those who suffer. Give us a bold love that can change the world.

July 11, 2006

Preconceived Ideas

They discussed this with one another and said, "It is because we have no bread." Mark 8:16

Jesus challenged the disciples to live a life free from hypocrisy and sin. As He usually did, He used an analogy. He spoke of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod, whose wickedness permiated all they had become. The Pharisees sacrificed the truth for legalism, and Herod indulged in the ways of the world - even murdering John the Baptist to save face.

The amazing thing is: all the disciples could talk about was bread. Jesus mentioned yeast, and they jumped to the conclusion that He was discussing their failure to pack a lunch. They had witnessed two recent incidents where Jesus fed thousands with a few loaves of bread. Why would Jesus care about bread?! So what that the disciples didn't have any! Jesus was concerned about souls, and they were preoccupied with their stomachs.

Why do we so often do the same?

The Word of God is truth, but some people transform it into lies simply to fit their preconceived ideas of what it means. Like challah bread on the Sabbath, scripture is twisted to become something it was never intended to be. It was never meant to be a political commentary or a justification for some sinful lifestyle. It is God's message to the world: Repent! Turn from sin to the One who saves. His grace is enough!

If only the church wasn't so preoccupied. Maybe the world would hear the truth. It's all about freedom - to live in Christ. He is the yeast that permiates the life of those who follow Him.

Lord, help me to know the truth of Your Word. Help me to never approach it with a preconceived idea of what it says. Let Your truth permiate my whole being. Make me a light that shines on the darkness around me.

Preconceived Ideas

They discussed this with one another and said, "It is because we have no bread." Mark 8:16

Jesus challenged the disciples to live a life free from hypocrisy and sin. As He usually did, He used an analogy. He spoke of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod, whose wickedness permiated all they had become. The Pharisees sacrificed the truth for legalism, and Herod indulged in the ways of the world - even murdering John the Baptist to save face.

The amazing thing is: all the disciples could talk about was bread. Jesus mentioned yeast, and they jumped to the conclusion that He was discussing their failure to pack a lunch. They had witnessed two recent incidents where Jesus fed thousands with a few loaves of bread. Why would Jesus care about bread?! So what that the disciples didn't have any! Jesus was concerned about souls, and they were preoccupied with their stomachs.

Why do we so often do the same?

The Word of God is truth, but some people transform it into lies simply to fit their preconceived ideas of what it means. Like challah bread on the Sabbath, scripture is twisted to become something it was never intended to be. It was never meant to be a political commentary or a justification for some sinful lifestyle. It is God's message to the world: Repent! Turn from sin to the One who saves. His grace is enough!

If only the church wasn't so preoccupied. Maybe the world would hear the truth. It's all about freedom - to live in Christ. He is the yeast that permiates the life of those who follow Him.

Lord, help me to know the truth of Your Word. Help me to never approach it with a preconceived idea of what it says. Let Your truth permiate my whole being. Make me a light that shines on the darkness around me.

July 15, 2006

Hiding from the Truth

But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Mark 9:34

Jesus' disciples amaze me sometimes. They had just been humbled by their inability to cast out a demon, and now they are arguing about who is the greatest disciple! Even more amazing, they believe they can hide the argument from Jesus. Although no one answered Him, Jesus knew what was happening. Again, He humbled them with the truth. He simply reminded them, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all."

How did they ever think they could hide their argument from Him? On more than one occasion, He challenged the Pharisees about what they were thinking - much less saying. Did they really think He wouldn't know the truth?

Do we?

Lord, there are times that I try to hide the truth from You. My heart deceives me. Help me to be a man of authenticity. Help me to lay everything I am at Your feet.

July 24, 2006

The Unnoticed

Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there. Mark 15:41b

In fear, the disciples abandoned Jesus the moment He was arrested. Peter stayed close by until he was recognized. The others disappeared into the darkness of the night. Only John remained nearby.

Yet the women who had cared for Him stayed and watched.

Women in that day were obscure and unnoticed.

Isn't it interesting how God so often uses the obscure and unnoticed to complete His greatest work? The women watched to see where Jesus was laid, so they could attend to Him in death as they had in life.

Three days later, it was the women who discovered Him alive and told His disciples.

Lord, help me to notice the obscure and unnoticed. It is likely that they are accomplishing Your greatest work, and I want to be a part of it. Forgive me for ever overlooking those You have called.

August 1, 2006

Confirming Signs

Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked withy them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it. mark 16:20

"Lord, show me a sign..."

How many times have I asked that? The truth is when we step out in faith, He will always confirm Himself with signs. We simply don't know how to see them.

An instantaneous answer to prayer - like feeling lonely and receiving a phone call moments later - like feeling overwhelmed at work and having a co-worker ask how she can help - these are signs of His work in our lives. But sometimes these are overlooked. They are discounted as coincidence or merely misunderstood altogether.

Father, how many signs do I miss every day? Too often I feel like a lone ship on the ocean. Open my eyes to see through the fog. Open my ears to hears the sounds of those I cannot see. Open my heart to recognize Your confirming work. Reign in my life today.

September 5, 2006

Nameless Disciples

"Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection." Acts 1:21-22

When the dust had settled, there were about one hundred and twenty who gathered to pray and wait for the Holy Spirit whom Jesus had promised. While they prayed, Peter called upon the group to name a replacement for Judas Iscariot. But who could stand as a witness to all Jesus had done? Weren't there only twelve disciples?

The truth is: There were more than twelve who followed Jesus. There were many who were there from the beginning to the end. We don't know all their names, but they were there. Among them was Matthias, the one chosen by lot to replace the one who had been lost. There was also Justis, the one mentioned but not chosen.

Lord, there were many who followed without notice. We don't know their names, but they knew You. Would I have been a nameless disciple? Would I be content to stay by Your side without the recognition? Give me the heart of a servant. I want to follow You.

June 10, 2007

Worshiping the Status Quo

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. Matthew 2:2

The magi came to town asking about a child who was born king of the Jews. I can understand why Herod was disturbed. A child born king would threaten his position, for he was a king by appointment rather than birth.

But why was all of Jerusalem disturbed along with him?

The priests knew a messiah was coming. Wouldn't they be elated at the birth of the true king? I think they were complacent. They had grown content with their rules and ritual. The true king would probably shake things up a bit. They preferred the status quo over the One sent by God Himself.

Lord, help me to never worship the status quo. I want to follow Your lead. The magi followed a star; Joseph followed an angel. I choose to follow You.

About Reflection

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The Potter's Hand in the Reflection category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Obedience is the previous category.

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